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 extends mission of Juno and InSight probes

NASA has decided to extend the missions of Juno and InSight probes, giving both several more years to gather data.

InSight main goal for the two-year extension will be to gather more seismic data of Mars. They will also continue their efforts to get the heat sensor into the ground, but that will have a lower priority.

Juno will be able to slowly adjust its orbit to better study Jupiter’s north polar regions, thus developing a more complete first rough map of the gas giant’s internal structure and atmosphere. The changing orbit will also allow the first close fly-bys of some of Jupiter’s moons, the first in more than twenty years.

The moon flybys could begin in mid-2021 with an encounter with Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, at a distance of roughly 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), Bolton said last year.

After a series of distant passes, Juno will swoop just 200 miles (320 kilometers) above Europa in late 2022 for a high-speed flyby. Only NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which ended its mission in 2003, has come closer to Europa.

There are two encounters with Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io planned in 2024 at distances of about 900 miles (1,500 kilometers), according to the flight plan presented by Bolton last year. Juno will be able to look for changes on the surfaces of Jupiter’s moons since they were last seen up close by NASA’s Voyager and Galileo probes.

While it will take images, Juno’s camera is not particularly high resolution. The main effort will be to use its instruments to study the surface make-up of the moons.


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  • Marcus

    Has anyone seen a recent update on the Insight lander’s heat probe? I can’t find any details since it was buried in mid to late October. I assume it hasn’t been successfully “digging” or I think we’d hear about it. But I’d love to know if it made any progress at all or if it popped back out again or what.

  • Marcus

    I also found a long paper on the pre-landing expectations for the regolith at the Insight landing site.
    I’ve read that the regolith friction was lower than expected, resulting in the mole’s problem “digging”, but has anyone seen a more detailed comparison between what they expected the regolith to be like and what they’ve actually found?

  • Marcus: There has been no update since October. I think they have held off further work because the use of the robot arm is costly in terms of power, and they wanted that power for other purposes.

  • Rodney

    Wasn’t the Juno camera attached as more of a provider of pretty pictures to the taxpayer than any science requirement?

  • Rodney: You are mostly correct, though any image provides information. In the case of these fly-bys of Jupiter’s moons, the camera might actually be more useful, as they aim to target already imaged locations by Galileo to see if anything changed in the last two decades.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I’ve mentioned this (and been shouted down about my comments) before, but Juno, and indeed any interplanetary mission should be equipped with the best quality camera practically possible. My original point was that “pretty pictures” are vital for keeping public engagement, and although I fully understand that Juno’s mission has nothing to do with visual observation, the camera was added as an afterthought and is essentially a webcam. Just enough resolution to take those pretty pictures.
    Now this extended mission is announced, the scientific value of a decent camera will be missed. And I’m sure all the readers here will lament the chance for some decent pictures of our systems most interesting moons. As a non-american tax payer, I know my opinion has very little sway, but I stand behind it. If spending a large quantity of money to fling something to a distant planet, and if doing so on tax payers money, send a bloody good camera along. The people deserve great photos for their money, and not just graphs incomprehensible to most. And as this extended mission proves, the science value of a camera cannot be underestimated. I bet the Europa clipper team are feeling exactly the same way.

  • LocalFluff

    I <3 IO
    Great! This the most interesting of all celestial objects in the Solar system (second to the Sun) will finally get some attention in 2024! It is predicted that the first exomoon discovered will be more like Io than any other Solar system moon. Because its volcanic activity makes it so bright.

    Imaging Europa and Ganymede will likely help support the science preparations of the two upcoming orbital missions there. As planned launched-arrived 2024-2030/31 and 2022-2032 (määh) respectively.

    As for the Junocam, I can understand scientists focusing on more narrow investigations. Visual light cameras are great for reconnaissance but they want to get deeper into the physics of Jupiter. I remember asking, as Juno was getting ready, at stackexchange and some podcast interviews of project people, if Juno might be used to fly by any moon. And the answer was always a plain No! But here we are. Mission creep, in a good sense for once.

    I'm speculating, but I feel sure they had moon flybys planned from the first day of the idea of the Juno mission. Mentioning, at the coffee machine, the idea to the orbital mechanics team to try to keep an option open for such an eventuality (as if they wouldn't have on their own). But they have a tradition of keeping expectations to the formally budgeted science goals. To not feed any argument to cut the budget to its core. A way of talking about it that politely makes the political/bureaucratic guys involved in the upper most budget decisions feel that they would look too stupid if they ask any further questions about it.

  • Marcus

    I guess that makes sense concerning power. I assume even if the mole is underground, they want to continue pushing down on top of the area while attempting to tunnel.

    I wish they would start sending probes to Mars in packs. It would be great to be taking measurements at a dozen sites around the planet rather than just one.

  • Edward

    Marcus wished: “I wish they would start sending probes to Mars in packs. It would be great to be taking measurements at a dozen sites around the planet rather than just one.

    Launch costs are still pretty high, but as they come down in the future, it may be possible to build additional copies of probes with those cost savings. A vast majority of a probe’s cost is in design and development, and second, third, and additional copies would cost relatively little each. Maybe one day Marcus’s wish will come true.

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