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 runs out of money for building second SLS mobile launcher

SLS's two mobile launchers, costing $1 billion
NASA’s bloated SLS mobile launchers

NASA has had to halt construction of the second mobile launcher platform for its SLS rocket because the agency has run out of money.

Overall, NASA spent almost a billion dollars on the first launcher (to be used only three times), and now has budgeted almost a half billion dollars for the second.

That’s about $1.4 billion, and apparently it is not enough.

The second Mobile Launcher (ML-2) has a cost estimate of $450 million. However, like ML-1, that cost is likely to rise over time based on the challenges involving ML-1, which ranged from being overweight to suffering from a slight lean. Both of these issues have since been resolved via engineering solutions. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words illustrate more NASA incompetence. The first platform was designed and built badly, being too heavy for its purposes while also improperly tilting sideways The agency had to spend a lot of money and time fixing these problems.

Meanwhile, SpaceX moves its Starship spaceship and Superheavy booster about in Boca Chica using simple truck movers that probably cost the company no more than a million dollars each, if that. And they became operational quickly, and are now in use.

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30 comments

  • Questioner

    When I read this article by Mr. Z., I feel supported in my demand – even if it is not my tax money, which is wasted by NASA – to fundamentally restructure NASA. The agency should concentrate on two points: 1. Purely scientific basic research (primarily: space astronomy, planetary exploration, planetary communication, revolutionary space propulsion systems 2. Management of the national space policy and budget.

    (Please nothing political what is not space related: No gender politics for example.) Everything else should – such as the construction and operation of launchers and space stations should be given to private companies. I think the majority of readers here will agree with me.

  • Call Me Ishmael

    The quote says that both problems were discovered on the first launcher, not designed into the second one.

    “challenges involving ML-1, which ranged from being overweight to suffering from a slight lean”

    Not that that justifies half a billion dollars either.

  • Call Me Ishmael: You are correct. I got my platforms confused. Fixed.

  • Jeff Wright

    It is undersupported compared to Apollo-and SLS bashers cherry pick these stories. Where is Starship’s escape tower again? Never reported!

  • Gary

    Jeff,

    Respectfully, because I come out of the same era and same part of the country as you and understand the reverence NASA engendered for many of us, if there had been lower cost options available to the Saturn V, would it or should it have received the funding it received? Should SLS funding match Saturn V funding just because?

  • Max

    Questioner;
    You mean like Muslim outreach?

    Jeff Wright,
    I’m not sure, but isn’t starship designed as an escape tower?
    I think Elon in an interview said “in a crisis” the “abort” will detach starship, and fire it’s engines.
    All the pieces can land separate, if they are still functional, even if it’s in the water.

  • Jeff Wright

    Starship has no abort capability. Lunar Starship may have weak upper engines to keep regolith from being blasted everywhere. That works in low lunar gravity on a near empty LUNAR Starship, but is useless for a heavier build fuel-full LEO Starship-which lacks such engines altogether…hot gas thrusters for fine tuning only. Bergin, Nasawatch, Ars..and the usual suspects won’t talk about that-they are too busy undermining our national capability while China advances theirs. I say again-libertarians are as bad as Greens about wrecking jobs with ideological nonsense. You want a better funded NASA for soft power and in case Musk meets with. You want a broad aerospace sector. Kill foreign aid. At least Robert hasn’t muzzled me like Cosmoquest, Nasawatch, and NSF have. Secret Projects Forum and even Reddit’s SLS thread are more balanced.

  • Questioner

    Jeff Wright:

    “Starship has no abort capability.”

    Yes, I also consider the missing special rescue system from Starship to be a clear weak point. Such a system was also missing from the space shuttle. It probably could have saved the Challenger crew in 1986.

    Starship must first demonstrate a very high level of reliability before it can be manned without a rescue system. I believe this is not going to happen anytime soon.

  • George C

    Jeff Wright:
    Yes, capsule based systems like Soyuz/Soyuz and Dragon/Falcon have abort capability lacking in Shuttle and Starship. Military jets have ejection seats but airlines do not. All are or will be human rated for their particular mission profiles. Keeping people honest and clear about the operational details and limitations, and costs seems to be key, so keep up the good work. If shuttle had not over promised on turn around and had never launched in cold weather or with ice forming on it then the safety record and reputation of that program would be entirely less tragic.

    I mention the past just to make the point about operational limitations.

  • Questioner

    George C:

    I have to admit, I have trouble comparing the technology of a passenger jet with that of Starship. The latter contains 4,500 tons of cryogenic propellant which, at least potentially, has enormous explosive potential. When the engines fail, an aircraft can often land because it has wings. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. The rocket must always be supported by its thrust. It’s over without thrust. Not so with the airplane. That was an advantage of the shuttle (the orbiter itself).

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright,
    You wrote: “Starship has no abort capability.

    You may want to review this video on the topic:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6lPMFgZU5Q (49 minutes)

    It probably could have saved the Challenger crew in 1986.

    Probably not. Challenger broke up instantaneously due to the aerodynamic stresses on the structure. There were no indications that would have triggered an abort before the External Tank ruptured.

  • Jeff Wright

    A very important point. What I really want is for SLS to become Energia to a simpler Buran-type Shuttle2…with jets. With an F-111 type escape pod, you have agility and options. The core block can be re-used as a wet stage station…no legs or TPS-so simpler, modular and safer. Musk hates wings…where I question the wisdom of catching falling lighthouses. Put a Big Gemini atop it so Starship recovery capture puts no lives at risk. In the future, I want a maximum rocket concept: SRBs circling a stronger Super Heavy with a whole SLS core with a single modded RS-68 as a second stage. Direct ascent-no refueling.

  • Jeff Wright: I am no engineer, but I don’t claim to be one. However, after I reading your comments day by day, I have come to the strong conclusion that you aren’t one either, no matter what you might claim.

    One can’t willy-nilly add complex parts to a rocket, such as adding a Centaur stage to Superheavy or adding an F-111 type escape pod to SLS, or adding solid rocket boosters to Superheavy. Even if such things were possible in terms solely of engineering (which they usually are not), the cost would be so high as to make them impractical.

    A great example is Falcon Heavy. When Musk proposed it, it seemed so simple. Just strap three the Falcon 9 first stages together and voila! you have a heavy lift rocket. That simple concept then took SpaceX about seven years and a half billion dollars in development money to figure out.

    Your demands and wants (you use the phrase “I want” a lot) are also generally completely divorced from financial realities. You don’t care how much something costs, as if money grows on trees and can be manufactured out of thin air. It can’t. For an engineering design to work it must also be financially viable.

    And since all of NASA’s manned space projects now for decades have consistently been financially impossible, we have gotten nowhere. I wonder how much a part you have played in this, being based in Huntsville and a big fan of the Marshall Spaceflight Center.

    SpaceX meanwhile builds something that people can afford, and suddenly the universe has opened to us.

    Get out a calculator and think about realities a bit before you make your “wants” and “demands” known. You might then come up with “wants” and “demands” that make sense in the real world.

    And yes, I have no intention of “muzzling” you. You faithfully adhere to my two rules, insulting no one while keeping your language clean. That you consistently suggest things that are silly and impossible does no one any harm.

  • Max

    Starbase (Boca Chica), TX – SpaceX’s Starship promises to be a next-generation rocket capable of launching both crew and cargo; How will the crew abort in the event of an emergency?

    SpaceX has just answered this question. on July 27th, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter:

    “After a lengthy consideration process, we’ve decided to implement an abort system just like Crew Dragon’s. It will be able to pull the crew compartment away in the event of an emergency. We believe that this is the best option to keep Starship safe for crew and to expediate the certification process”
    https://apogeereport.com/starship-launch-abort-system/

    There is a picture there of crew capsule detaching and thrusting away? Interesting.
    Now I understand what Elon was talking about.

  • Alton

    The Shuttle was originally designed with a F-111 type escape pod but during it’s redesigns the rockets and explosive bolt system was dropped to save weight on the bird. But the basic frame was left as designed since the metal was already being ‘bent’ for Obiter 099 Enterprise.

    Thus when Challenger was lost the crew compartment dropped as one piece to impact.

  • Questioner

    Edward:

    “It probably could have saved the Challenger crew in 1986.”

    You wrote:

    “Probably not. Challenger broke up instantaneously due to the aerodynamic stresses on the structure. There were no indications that would have triggered an abort before the External Tank ruptured.”

    Edward, that’s not right. There were several deviations that could have been used by a computer-controlled rescue system for a trigger: 1. A significant pressure drop in the combustion chamber pressure of the affected booster (due to the secondary gas flow through the leak). 2. Related to this, an unusual deviation in the thrust vector of the booster.

    Something else in this context: it is well known that the cabin itself remained largely intact and the astronauts only died when they hit the water. This indicates that a well-designed rescue system that would only include the cabin could have worked, especially if it were still equipped with its own propulsion system. A lack of triggering physical events should never really exist. The destruction of the orbiter Challenger by aerodynamic forces also did not occur in such a way that it was not preceded by a series of unusual events concerning the movements of the shuttle and its parts that an intelligent system for triggering the rescue system could not have detected.

  • Questioner

    Max:

    I have no idea where this alleged Twitter message came from, but from what I know (and I’m following the Starship development very closely): Starship will not have a special launch escape (abort) system, other than its own propulsion system.

    Elon Musk (even if you will never read this here): We would like to never experience something like this – as seen here in this video – again.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd7dxmBLg48

  • Andi

    Max:

    That article ends with “ Note: None of this is real, please don’t take it seriously.”

    Methinks a large grain of salt is required here.

  • Phil Wilson

    Max,
    Musk never tweeted what you posted. I follow him on twitter and a search reveals no such tweet..

    SpaceX has just answered this question. on July 27th, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter:
    “After a lengthy consideration process, we’ve decided to implement an abort system just like Crew Dragon’s. It will be able to pull the crew compartment away in the event of an emergency. We believe that this is the best option to keep Starship safe for crew and to expediate the certification process”
    https://apogeereport.com/starship-launch-abort-system/

    The source you cite is bogus.

  • Edward

    Questioner,
    You wrote: “1. A significant pressure drop in the combustion chamber pressure of the affected booster (due to the secondary gas flow through the leak). 2. Related to this, an unusual deviation in the thrust vector of the booster.

    So, you would program in an abort with loss of spacecraft over minor deviations during a launch? That could result in an abort on most, if not all, launches. Thus, the system for any form of ejection of the crew or crew cabin would necessarily have had to survive the breakup.

  • Questioner

    Eduard:

    Your thematic reaction to this specific problem is really getting more and more absurd here. Go over the points I gave you again, then you will find out for yourself.

    You may be a nice guy. But I think your built-in problem here is another one, demonstrable in many examples: You always have to be right! Hell come out.

  • Edward

    Questioner,
    You have failed to show where I am wrong, but I have pointed out problems with your logic.

  • Jeff Wright

    “One can’t willy-nilly add complex parts to a rocket, such as adding a Centaur stage to Superheavy.”

    Uh huh

    Centaur was Atlas.
    SRB recipes from Minuteman
    Gemini’s ride.

    Combine them and you get what launched the Voyagers.

    https://phys.org/news/2021-10-great-minds-dont-alike-companies.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Advocate_Unit

    That’s what I am, in a manner of speaking…

  • Max

    I apologize, I did a word search while operating heavy equipment. I fell for someone’s joke.

    My wife retired recently and whenever she catches me on my computer (my phone) she tells me I’m wasting time and puts me to work. (Or going shopping, or watching TV with her… which I never do on my own, or volunteering to pick up the neighbors leaves, or entertaining the grandkids…) speaking of grandkids, my eldest grandson just got his drivers license and borrowed my car to go to his high school basketball practice and totaled my car!

    I had found what I needed on the word search, I wasn’t sure if it was correct so I used question marks and did not follow up, thank you for the correction.

    Normally I would take notes on information I hear on the AM/FM radio during a 12 1/2 hour shift. Look it up for myself later, then share if it is appropriate. Like our Swedish friend, my life has been crazy lately.

  • Jeff Wright

    The Babylon Bee for rocket geeks.

    Now, Buran would have had no O-ring problems on its LFBs…and flew “heads-up” with any foam falling away from…not atop and underslung orbiter.

    Apollo was “silly” to Proxmire type cost cutters. NASA is underfunded. Apollo was a return on investment.

    Paying for out-of-wedlock gangsta babies who will grow up to break into my car like the ones before?
    Cut them off and you’ll save more.

  • Edward

    Questioner,
    You wrote: “You may be a nice guy.

    You are right. I am a nice guy. Many, many women have told me so, and I have many, many friends (“but let’s just be friends”). ;-)

  • Ken Sands

    Well, well. If I remember correctly NASA was playing funny games with the SLS project cost to keep it from having to be reauthorized by Congress. At the time (a year or two ago) they just barely squeaked under the threshold. Another billion dollars should put it over the limit. But nobody in government seems to care about following the law anymore except when there is political advantage.

  • Brad

    Remember when Ares V and SLS were sold as a simple, quick and cheap development path to a super-heavy launch vehicle, because it was derived from Space Shuttle hardware?

    Is the utter failure of SLS to live up to that claim a result of rampant incompetence and/or corruption? Or was the claim never true in the first place?

    The GSE of the SLS should have been the easiest thing to do, yet they still screwed it up?

  • Brad

    Alton:

    You have fallen prey to a myth, one that I first heard of back in the 1990s. The original Space Shuttle design never contemplated any emergency escape system for the crew, F-111 type escape-pod, or otherwise. Only some original test flights of Space Shuttle had two ejections seats, but only for test flights, they were removed for the operational missions.

    I think the origin of today’s escape pod myth, comes from a proposal in the late 70’s or early 80’s for an improved version 2 of the Space Shuttle, and that version did propose a severable cabin section that could have provided abort options for the crew. That 2.0 version of the Shuttle never got anywhere. NASA was barely scrapping up enough money for the original version of the Space Shuttle.

  • Edward

    It’s one thing to wish or fantasize about things, such as what would we be able to do if a hydrogen engine were the second stage of the Falcons or if Starship were a hydrogen vehicle. I would like to see that, too, because if it could be done for an economical cost, then even more mass could be taken to orbit for a low price, perhaps beating SpaceX’s price. It is another thing to try counterfactuals and assume that the Challenger crew could have been saved by a launch abort system.

    The very first rocket that I saw launch in person had had a low chamber pressure in one of the solid rocket boosters, which caused difficulties, but it made it to a low orbit. The payload only stayed aloft for a couple of months rather than be able to accomplish its mission, but low chamber pressure was not cause for abort.

    Likewise, low chamber pressure in one of Challenger’s SRBs was not an indicator that the SRB was about to explode, or that the External Tank was about to explode, or that the Orbiter was about to explode. It is not reasonable to assume that on such a condition NASA’s controllers would have instantly aborted the launch, which necessarily would result in loss of vehicle, in the counterfactual that there were an escape pod or other launch abort system for the crew during the SRB phase. The controllers are trained for safety, but they are also trained to solve problems so that the mission can go forward.

    Had such an abort system been installed, it probably would not have been used before the breakup of the craft, and it probably would have been damaged and not in a condition to save the crew afterward. Even launch abort towers rely on the rocket design to burst sideways during an explosion rather than burst forward, in the direction of the manned capsule. Such a design prevents damage to the capsule or to the launch abort tower.

    An abort system probably would not have saved the Challenger crew.

    Brad noted that a launch abort system was never really intended for the Shuttle, so the discussion may be moot. However, it is always interesting to ponder the question as to what if there had been such a system. The Shuttle was intended to be so safe that an abort system would not be necessary, but NASA overestimated their abilities. After all, their SRB contractor added a second O-ring in order to improve the safety of their rocket assembly. A year earlier, these same SRB engineers had assured the NASA engineers that the SRBs could be launched under these conditions, then confused the NASA engineers by saying no just before launch. As NASA asked: which was it, safe or not safe? The answer to NASA was that it was safe. A lot of people fooled themselves and others, and some engineers caved in to pressure not from NASA but from the SRB contractor management. “Put on your management hat.”

    Back to Jeff Wright’s original topic of an abort system for Starship: can you imagine a Starship aborting and, having successfully landed in the ocean without breaking up, bobbing there in the waves? Which end would be up? Which side would be up? How is rescue achieved?

    If Starship aborts on the pad, and lands vertically near the pad, as envisioned in the Everyday Astronaut video I linked earlier, SpaceX will need a tall ladder to get everyone out. Or maybe one of their very tall man-lifts.

    To summarize: like the airlines, it is probably better to prevent the accidents in the first place than to have a parachute for everyone, and it is probably better to find the least expensive way to propel your vehicle, since fuel and its delivery are a large part of the cost of operations.

    On the other hand, SpaceX may have a reason to develop a hydrogen version of Starship (if I may shift gears without using the clutch). It is believed that there are large deposits of water ice in shaded craters at the Moon’s poles, so there may very well be plenty of hydrogen and oxygen available in space for rocket fuel but maybe not so much carbon for carbon-based rocket fuel. For SpaceX’s lunar lander, a hydrogen engine may eventually be preferred over a methane engine.

    On the third hand, the gripping hand (for Niven-Pournelle fans), there is a hypothesis that there may also be some amount of dry ice, frozen carbon dioxide, in those same shaded craters, so SpaceX may not find an incentive for hydrogen Starships.

    But we can dream.

    Brad asked: “Remember when Ares V and SLS were sold as a simple, quick and cheap development path to a super-heavy launch vehicle, because it was derived from Space Shuttle hardware?

    Oh, my! That was so long ago and so many tens of billions of dollars ago that it taxes my memory. However, this fiasco with the second mobile launcher is an example of how everything SLS has been going wrong. As I recall, they launched a test of Ares I about five years after they started that project. SLS is going slower.

    Is the utter failure of SLS to live up to that claim a result of rampant incompetence and/or corruption? Or was the claim never true in the first place?

    Most likely it is a result of changes in requirements made, which the delays gave them time to think of and to make. So making these changes is likely not corruption but could be incompetence. Or maybe they had intended to do these things early on but could not get funding for them, and eventually found a way to make them into requirements, meaning that the claim may not have been as true as we had believed.

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