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On February 5, 2023 I will celebrate my 70th birthday. Yay! As I do every year during this birthday month, I run a campaign to raise money to support my work here at Behind The Black. I do not run ads. My only support comes from my readers, which leaves me utterly free to speak my mind openly about space, culture, and politics. Please consider supporting me in this work by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


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NASA imposes new rules for any private launches to ISS

NASA has added several new rules for any private launches to ISS, now requiring that each flight include at least one experienced former NASA astronaut.

From the actual procurement notice:

NASA is also in the process of finalizing details associated with a new requirement that upcoming private astronaut missions include a former flown NASA (U.S.) government astronaut as the mission commander. A former NASA astronaut provides experienced guidance for the private astronauts during pre-flight preparation through mission execution. Based on their past on-orbit and NASA experience, the PAM commander provides a link between the resident ISS expedition crew and the private astronauts and reduces risk to ISS operations and PAM/ISS safety. Specific details of the requirement will be documented in future solicitations, as well as in updated documentation and in the solicitation technical library.

The new rules also require the companies to submit their research plans twelve months before launch, as well as reserve a longer time for the private passengers to adapt to weightlessness on the station before initiating that work.

The changes appear to make sense, based on the experience of the first passenger flight of Axiom sent up to ISS earlier this year. However, their existence will likely encourage the arrival of the private space stations in order to break free from NASA’s rules.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


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.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Mike borden

    So are the PAM comanders paid by the .gov or by the private company? They aren’t paying customers but are required personnel now and from what I understand active nasa astronauts. Does nasa pay for the seat?

  • Col Beausabre

    Sounds like The NASA Astronaut Guaranteed Retirement Income Act.

  • Jeff Wright

    They just remember the kids on Shatner’s flight showing out and think it wise to have an RA.

  • Brett Bullington

    I’m beginning to trust NASA just as much as I trust the rest of the US federal government. Which is to say not at all.

  • LTC Ted

    “How to Usurp Control of Private Enterprises with a Camel Nose”

  • Col Beausabre

    LTC Ted – I had thought the same thing – in Russia, he was known as the commissar or zampolit

  • Star Bird

    When can we have a Shuttlecraft?

  • Edward

    From the article:

    “It became pretty clear, first of all, that customers really didn’t want to fly with nobody who has done it before,” López-Alegría recalled of planning for the Ax-1 mission during a talk at the ISS Research and Development Conference July 28. “Secondly, NASA was a lot more comfortable having someone who had been there before.”

    Neither of these (non)experiences indicates to me that it need be a NASA astronaut rather than hire someone who had been there before (previous passenger, cosmonaut, astronaut from another county).

    “Significant research activities were not originally envisioned as a primary objective for private astronaut missions,” the document states.

    Thus, NASA remains a gatekeeper for what science and what manufacturing is done on ISS. We may have to wait a long time before We the People start directly benefiting from space manufacturing.

    One change for Ax-2 is that Whitson will have more time to assist the private astronauts accompanying her.

    I had been unaware that Axiom’s NASA astronaut had other duties. I thought that the entire reason for the experienced NASA astronaut was to ensure that the private experimenters/tourists did not put a burden on the NASA and Russian crews. These reactions may merely be due to poor mission planning rather than actual problems, they may be able to be solved by other means. It looks to me like NASA is imposing controls where freedom and independence may be better.

    I cannot wait for the independent commercial space stations.

    From the Requirements Update notice:

    The clarifications associated with the ISS Crew Code of Conduct and the addition of the NRPA delineates the acceptable types of activities for a private astronaut and the code of conduct that they must adhere to as an astronaut on the ISS.

    What horrible thing did the Axiom crew do, that previous tourists didn’t do, that warrants this?

  • pawn

    “What horrible thing did the Axiom crew do, that previous tourists didn’t do, that warrants this?”

    They left the seat up on the space toilet!

    Egads, the thoughtless monsters!

  • Edward

    pawn answered: “They left the seat up on the space toilet!

    I hate when that happens.

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