Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


NASA decides to fly Orion with failed power unit

Because a repair would delay the first SLS launch for months if not a year, NASA has decided to fly Orion on that November ’21 mission with failed electronics power unit.

In a Dec. 17 statement, NASA said it had decided to “use as is” one of eight power and data units (PDU) on the Orion spacecraft, which provide communications between the spacecraft’s computers and other components. One of two redundant channels in one of two communications cards in that PDU is not working.

…NASA, in its statement about deciding not to replace the PDU, did not go into details about the repair options, but said that the risks of damaging the spacecraft during the PDU repair outweighed any loss of data should the unit completely malfunction.

Engineers, the agency stated, “determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system.”

“NASA has confidence in the health of the overall power and data system, which has been through thousands of hours of powered operations and testing,” the agency added, noting that the PDU in question was still “fully functional.”

Let’s then assess Orion. The contract was issued to Lockheed Martin in 2006. In the fourteen years since Congress has spent about $17 billion on this manned capsule. In that time it has flown once, during a test flight that was intended to test its heat shield, even though when that flight happened NASA had already decided that it was not going to use the heat shield design it was testing.

Orion’s second flight in November ’21 will be unmanned, but it will be flying with this failed unit. The next time it is supposed to fly will be in ’24, when NASA is hoping to send astronauts on a lunar landing missions. By that time NASA will have spent about $20 billion on Orion, and gotten two test capsules (both unrepresentative of the flight model) plus one manned mission.

Would you fly on this capsule under these circumstances? I wouldn’t, especially considering the non-track record of its rocket, SLS.

As the taxpayer, do you think you’ve gotten your money’s worth from this capsule? I don’t. I think it has been an ungodly waste of money, and a demonstration of the incapability of NASA and the big space contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin of getting anything accomplished. Depend on them, and you will never go anywhere.

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10 comments

  • Steve

    Well past time to cut our loses on this rocket to nowhere. I think they will fly out what has already been paid for, but no more.

  • SpaceX has already flown Falcon Heavy three times, and Crew Dragon twice with crew, at what, a tenth the cost?

  • pawn

    Seventeen billion dollars resulted in a system judged by it’s designers to be so delicate that it can’t be repaired without damaging it further.

    This is not the way you get mankind into space.

    Nature doesn’t do waivers.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Great engineering. Make an important electrical component so difficult to service or replace that you basically have to shut down your space program to do so. Awesome.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Jeffersonian, Eric Berger at Ars Technica has a recent article that has the exact figures you are looking for.

    Just try to avoid the comments and other writers at that site.

  • I’m wondering if the slow pace of SLS isn’t caused in part by low morale? It seems reasonable to think that if you are working on a project that becomes increasingly irrelevant, you may not have a lot of enthusiasm for the job.

  • Patrick Underwood: Thanks for the link.

    That pretty much says it all.

  • mkent

    In that time it has flown once, during a test flight that was intended to test its heat shield, even though when that flight happened NASA had already decided that it was not going to use the heat shield design it was testing.

    The “Orion” that flew on that flight was by no means a full-up Orion. In fact, most engineers I’ve talked to don’t consider what flew on that flight a capsule, just a heat shield test article. It had only a little more fidelity than the Dragon boilerplate that SpaceX flew in June 2010.

    /Orion’s second flight in November ’21 [Artemis 1*] will be unmanned, but it will be flying with this failed unit. The next time it is supposed to fly will be in ’24, when NASA is hoping to send astronauts on a lunar landing missions.

    * addition mine

    Not true. Artemis II is scheduled for a manned flight around the moon in June 2023.

  • Edward

    mkent noted: “The “Orion” that flew on that flight was by no means a full-up Orion. In fact, most engineers I’ve talked to don’t consider what flew on that flight a capsule, just a heat shield test article. It had only a little more fidelity than the Dragon boilerplate that SpaceX flew in June 2010.

    Diane Wilson, in another thread, once noted that for most tests that we see, it is more accurate to use terms such as engineering test article, and I sometimes use the term test unit:
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/weather-delays-starship-hop-to-december-8th-musk-arrives-in-boca-chica/#comment-1096857

    For engineers and budget watchers, there is an important difference between a flight Orion or Starship and a test unit for either of them. Test units often have little more to them than is necessary to test some aspect of the flight unit. This reduces costs and reduces problems that might delay the test or cause other problems for the test. After all, NASA might ask itself, “do we really need redundancy on that PDU on this test?”

    NASA “determined that … the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system.

    According to the article: “the PDU … is located in an adapter between the crew module and service module that is inaccessible now that the two modules are mated to each other.

    A question that I have, which cannot really be answered, is: are the commercial companies designing their flight vehicles in a way to maintain accessibility after assembly? This was something that I worked hard to maintain in my designs, because it turned out that flight hardware can be taken apart multiple times. I learned this that hard way on my first flight design, when a connection I designed failed due to work hardening, because I assumed that it would be mated only once, since it was deep inside the assembly. Fortunately it only took a couple of weeks to recover from my mistake, and it happened early in the assembly and test phase (we were still designing the housing to mount these x-ray detectors).

    Anything can fail at any time for any reason, so the loss of accessibility should be made rare.

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