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.

New cracks discovered on a different Russian ISS module

Russian officials revealed today that their astronauts have discovered new cracks on a different Russian ISS module, dubbed Zarya.

“Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module,” Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency, according to Reuters. “This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.” The Zarya module, also called the Functional Cargo Block, was the first component of the ISS ever launched, having blasted into orbit on Nov. 20, 1998, according to NASA.

Russians have now found what appear to be age stress fractures on both Zarya and Zvezda, the two oldest modules of ISS. More important, the Russians are finally admitting that the cracks are stress fractures, something they had earlier denied.

The need to launch new commercial American modules to ISS as quickly as possible has now become even more urgent. Axiom plans to do so, but its first module is not scheduled to arrive before ’24. It now looks increasingly that the Russian modules might not make it till then.


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  • Jeff Wright

    The concept SLSS Skylab II Starship would be a great replacement for both.

  • Cluebat

    Replace the module, if it become a threat. But don’t discard it, use it to study the failure and develop methods of fixing these problems in the future. Isolate it from the station, but keep it pressurized. Create specialized tools for NDI, Repair, and surface treatments (bead blasters, cold spray, etc.) that are small and self-contained.
    And don’t share these developments. Let the CCP do their own research.
    It’s a matter of national security.
    I have always wondered if we could not have developed a better method of emergency tile repair for the shuttle.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Bringing up SSLS reminds me that the SpaceX construction technology should be tested for long-duration stability and leak resistance. I hope a Starship-based SSLS can be put up and over-pressurized for just this purpose. There are miles of automated welds in those hulls! Yes, they are tested on the ground, but it is the years of exposure to space at high differential pressures, flexing and repeated heating and chilling that needs to be evaluated.

  • pawn

    If ISS is abandoned for any reason, the Chinese are going to be the only ones in orbit for a very long time. Musk is too busy to waste his time in LEO.

  • MDN

    I wonder if these new cracks are related to the recent docking fiasco with the new Russian module where the engines fired unexpectedly and induced unplanned stresses on the entire structure?

    In any event, as this issue is consistent between the two oldest Russian modules I would conjecture that the design margin employed by Russia on their station hardware of this era was insufficient. This is surprising as it runs counter to their military tendencies, building overly robust fighter jets as a prime example. But, the mass limitations for getting to orbit are fixed and immutable, and if you want the biggest module for bragging rights you have to trade off robustness to get it. And since their new module was pretty much designed at the same time but took 2 decades to get to orbit, we can expect it probably will perform about the same.

    All said and done however we are learning and so far the lessons have come without catastrophic failure. So I call it a win : )

  • MDN wrote, “as this issue is consistent between the two oldest Russian modules I would conjecture that the design margin employed by Russia on their station hardware of this era was insufficient.”

    What is interesting however is that both Zarya and Zvezda were built based on what the Russians learned during the 15-plus years that Mir was in orbit. I would have thought they would have made these modules more robust, capable of lasting far longer than the 23 years Zarya has been in orbit.

  • David K

    @pawn Elon Musk may not care about LEO, but the key to unlocking Mars is bringing a ton of stuff to LEO. Other companies who do care about space stations (Sierra Nevada Corp, Axiom, etc), will be able to finally launch their stations if the cost finally comes down enough.

  • Richard M

    Worth noting, strange as it sounds, that NASA – not Roscosmos – actually owns Zarya.

  • Edward

    pawn wrote: “Musk is too busy to waste his time in LEO.

    Although there is some truth to this thought, it may not take much to turn a manned Starship into a space station. SpaceX may not mind getting a contract to do so, once they have a manned version to adapt.

  • pawn

    Obviously I need to elaborate on my comment.

    The point I was attempting to make is there is very little scientific or political interest or value in the current ISS mission other than subjecting the crew to “zero” g. It is my opinion that it will never be replaced in it’s current form which is essentially a habitat. It is not a construction platform or a fuel depot, which are needed but not in the current ISS orbit.

    Noting like the ISS is ever going to be built again. We have better things to do with our “space money”. I’m not considering the military aspects but again that would be a different purpose built platform. The ISS has outlived it’s purpose.

  • Icepilot

    “Musk is too busy to waste his time in LEO.” – No. Thousands of Starlink satellites (that provide the means for this posting) say otherwise.
    Elon Musk has demonstrated, repeatedly, that SpaceX will go to where the market is. Thankfully.

  • Edward

    pawn wrote: “ The ISS has outlived it’s purpose.

    Depending upon what one thinks the purpose of ISS was. Originally, the first 1980s design, it would be very versatile with a larger crew than it ended up having and would be a gateway to the rest of the solar system. That design covered what NASA thought the purpose of the space station should be. Congress had other ideas. In the end, it split the manpower roughly equally between and science, and there was no manufacturing so that we could directly benefit from the microgravity resource. The science performed is either basic science or it is research concerning what can be done, and then we earthlings figure out how to reproduce it in a 1-G environment.

    For me, I think that the ISS never got to perform its purpose.

    Congress has squandered so much of its space resources, including NASA and its talented people (which is why Jeff Wright is so disappointed with the squandering of the resources at Marshall). After spending or committing almost $100 billion on ISS by the early 2000s, the total budget was cut by 3%, resulting in a loss of 50% of its then-intended capabilities. In addition, a centrifuge the diameter of a module had been cancelled in order to save money, so we lost the capability of doing any experiments in environments between microgravity and 1G.

    The original 1980s design would have cost $6 billion before launch, and had twice the number of modules as we ended up with, but when Congress learned that the Space Shuttle launches would raise the total price to $32 billion, Congress balked and sent the design back to NASA for reduction in total construction cost. A few years later, Congress allowed the Russians to join the international team, resulting in the cost being three times as much as what Congress had rejected just a few years earlier, yet then having half the capabilities.

    Between halving the capabilities in the late 1980s and halving them again in the early 2000s, ISS does 1/4 (or less) as much as it was originally intended to do.

    Despite Congress insisting upon having a super heavy lift launch vehicle (the SLS), they don’t have enough interest in space to have a purpose for SLS. Scientists will find a lot of use for a commercial space station or ten, but politicians only do space in order to make believe their countries are technologically advanced. If we really want to advance technologically, we would let commercial companies perform commercial experiments for commercial benefits that can be sold to the rest of us. Such sales would fund a lot more science, engineering, and productivity than we received from half a century of government monopoly in space.

    For me, I think that we will never again see anything as useless and expensive as ISS. Commercial companies will require a far greater benefit to cost ratio come from their own space stations than we could ever get from ISS. By letting the Russians join ISS, we were supposed to prevent China, North Korea, and Iran from getting the space technology that they have, so there was little benefit to the collaboration with the Russians, but there was tremendous cost.

    Like the Space Shuttle, ISS has been a disappointment. SLS was designed to disappoint, too. We are spending a tremendous amount of money on space projects, but we are not getting anywhere near what commercial space could do with the same money. Even better: commercial space would spend its own money rather that taxpayer money. We apparently lost Bigelow, which seemed ready to put up an independent commercial space station, but we still have Axiom, Sierra Nevada/Sierra Space, and maybe Ixion, none of which is as ready as Bigelow was.

    The sooner we get commercial space stations on orbit the better off we will be.

  • pzatchok

    Bigelow can be restarted. The technology is not lost nor is it anything really special.

    If Musk was smart he would buy it up and restart it. By the time he is ready to lift modules to orbit he could have the assembly line up and running again.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “If Musk was smart he would buy it [Bigelow] up and restart it. By the time he is ready to lift modules to orbit he could have the assembly line up and running again.

    This idea may be a distraction for SpaceX. They will need to perform some tests of long-term Starship flights (around seven months for flight to Mars), so Starship will already be performing tests similar to a space station. So far, manned spacecraft (other than space stations) have not had missions much longer than a couple of weeks, so Starship will break new ground, in that way. Rather than spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying a company and finishing the development of another company’s space station design, SpaceX could make some modifications to a Starship and have a ready-made space station.

    Even though they have shown an ability to be successful, SpaceX and Musk should remain focused on their own goals and not get distracted by wildly diversional goals. I do not think that either SpaceX or Musk are the solution to everything, but they do seem to be good when they concentrate on a limited set of specific goals of their own choice. So many people keep suggesting that SpaceX or Musk expand into other areas that I am now beginning to understand the concept of the “fanboy” and why some people tease about it.

    If Bigelow’s designs really are good, and if they really were close to being able to orbit manned space habitats, then I think it would be good for someone else to buy Bigelow or to help Mr. Bigelow get restarted. This way SpaceX can keep focused on its own goals, and someone else can get us moving in the direction of commercial space stations faster than the other companies are able to do. Once Starliner is operational, then we should have enough demand for manned traffic to commercial space stations to keep black ink on everyone’s ledgers.

  • pzatchok

    I am not a fan boy as they say.
    Its just that Musk is the only one interested in space with the cash and ships needed to make it fly.

    Bigelow worked just fine. NASA just didn’t want it because it didn’t fit with their philosophy of launching a complete module all at once with everything already working inside.
    Bigelows go up empty and need fitted out in orbit.

    One would be great for the ISS right now. dock it to it and take your time transferring the equipment out of the Russian modules into it.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “Its just that Musk is the only one interested in space with the cash and ships needed to make it fly.

    There areothers., of course Bezos, for instance, has the money to buy/help Bigelow as well as to hire launch vehicles to get into space. Branson may also have the money and interest in space. There are others. Paul Allen was not the only other one.

    SpaceX does not yet have a launch vehicle that can launch a Bigelow space habitat, so even Musk would have to outsource that service.

  • pzatchok

    Bezos can not even build his promised engine or get his own baby launch company up and running with a good cadence.

    Branson is selling out his space interest in order to keep his other companies floating. Plus he never had a real interest.

    And Bigalow habitats can come in any size you want. in fact I even think one is still connected to the ISS but is only being used as a trash container because after five years NASA still does not trust it.
    Its called BEAM and was transported on the 8th Space X cargo launch. Its now scheduled to stay there until 2028.

    NASA also planed on launching a B 330 module on an Atlas rocket. Well that puts it inside Starship capabilities.

    Could Bigalow be restated and have one built inside two years?

    Will and could NASA suck up its pride bite the bullet and save the ISS?

  • Edward

    There was a time when it looked like Musk could not get his rockets to work, but he made them work. Bezos could, too. And should. But Bezos is not in such a hurry. He will not go out of business if he does not start revenue service soon, so he does not have the incentive to be in a hurry.

    Branson is so uninterested that he spun off a launch company. He may be more interested than you give him credit for.

    If you want small space stations then SpaceX could just put up some Dragon capsules and call them space stations, but Falcon does not have a fairing large enough to carry a B330. There are many limitations to launch, not just lift capabilities. Launching on another rocket may be the correct option. SpaceX is not the answer to every question. People who think so are why I now understand the concept of the SpaceX fanboy.

    The question of whether Bigelow could be restarted and whether it would be ready to send up a space habitat was a pondering I expressed earlier. I think that someone could make this happen.

    NASA does not get to decide whether it will get funding for ISS. That is Congress’s job. Congress’s decisions for what to do with NASA is why we had fewer moon landings than planned, why we had such a limited Apollo Applications Program half a century ago, and why we have such limited use and access to space today. Congress is why the talents, skills, and knowledge of the people at NASA are being so badly squandered on a slow development of space resources, and why we don’t have manufacturing in space today. Had NASA been a private company with its own revenues and could make its own decisions, we wouldn’t need a NewSpace industry to bring us what we want, rather than what the government wants; the private commercial space industry would be half a century old, now.

    I would like a wide variety of companies doing business in space, because if it is only SpaceX, then all we will get is what SpaceX wants, not what the rest of us want. Why replace one monopoly/monopsony with another? If it is just government or just SpaceX, then we are limited in what we get. If we have dozens or hundreds of companies doing business in space then we can get hundreds or even thousands of products for use back here on Earth.

  • pzatchok

    Why does Falcon have to carry a b330? Is Bigalow not capable of making a module perfectly sized to fit into a falcon Heavy fairing? Is the 33- the smallest they can make?

    If they just doubled the length of the BEAM module they could easily replace those Russian modules and still just use a Falcon 9 Rocket.

    Always with the can’t do attitude. Always with the negativity.

    If you look at the Bigalow modules they are actually armored. If they were designed to give the same protection as the regular modules do they would be half the weight and would compress into smaller areas for launch.

  • wayne

    Kelly’s Heroes
    “Negative Waves”

  • Edward

    You asked: “Why does Falcon have to carry a b330?

    I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t, and it can’t with the current fairing. I believe that I already said these things, so I am confused by your questions.

    Is Bigalow not capable of making a module perfectly sized to fit into a falcon Heavy fairing?

    Perhaps, but then the question is: why didn’t they already design such a habitat? I’m pretty sure that Bigelow, like me, also does not think that SpaceX is the answer to all things.

    Why does SpaceX have to be the one to restart Bigelow? Why can’t some other company or millionaire/billionaire? Why does Bigelow have to be the space station supplier? Why can’t Axiom, Ixion, or Sierra Space?

    Assuming that you aren’t thinking of yourself as the one being negative: why is it negativity to desire alternatives and greater variety? It seems to me that this is the more positive attitude than wanting only one answer to everything.

  • wayne

    “This is how we fix problems….”

  • Edward

    If the technique works, maybe we shouldn’t knock it: (1/2 minute, “The Longest Day”)

  • pzatchok

    You asked: “Why does Falcon have to carry a b330?”

    You got the point of the question backward Edward.

    I was not asking why the Falcon has to carry the B330 but why the B330 has to be carried at all.
    You seem to think that is all Bigalow is is a one trick pony. They also designed and built the BEAM module so why can they not build something else that will fit the Falcon Heavy.
    And why can the Falcon heavy not get a new slightly larger fairing?

    And as for all those other module companies. How many of them built and flew their ideas already?
    And how long will it take them to build a replacement to those Russian modules? And do we have an available rocket to launch them?

    There is a problem with the wish machine of “we need more variety” in our rocket business. It like making and selling cars. You can make one really expensive billion dollar car and hope it sells or you can make and sell a bunch of more affordable cheaper models. Which one is an investor more likely going to invest in?

    We already have 10 or so small launch companies out there and about the same number making junk to send to space.
    There is no one out there doing the big investments because they do not yet see any return on those investments.
    Lets say it costs a billion dollars to build and launch a 10 bed “hotel” module into space. If the investors want to break even in ten years that would mean they want a hundred million a year back on their investment. Now if your could just keep those 10 beds filled 360 days a year for the next ten years you would have to rent them out at just 27780 dollars a day to break even.
    And not a bit of this includes operational expenses.
    Now just how many super rich people want to spend 28000 dollars a night just to sit around and float in 9 other peoples smelly funk and eat MRE’s.

    You can keep wishing for a big investor to come along.
    I’ll just keep referring to the only who has come along and done anything as at least an example.

    If the Queen Mary was the only boat in the ocean everyone would use the queen Mary as an example of a boat. So don’t think that just by using Musk as an example people are fan boyz. He is just the only Queen Mary in the ocean.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “You seem to think that is all Bigalow is is a one trick pony.

    Bigelow seems to think so, too. The only independent habitat that they have is the B330. BEAM is not independent, and since the topic is getting independent commercial space stations on orbit as soon as possible, this is all that Bigelow has to offer. To design a new habitat just to fit a Falcon is counter to the topic at hand. For any launch company to spend the time developing a new fairing is likewise contrary to the topic. As already noted, other launch vehicles are already available to launch B330. If we were not time sensitive, then we could wait until other launch vehicles and habitats were available. Or better yet, wait until Axiom, Ixion, or Sierra Space put something up, and we wouldn’t have to wish that Bigelow restarted operations.

    You have already noted that there are plenty of other launch companies, so SpaceX is not the only “Queen Mary.” That you think so is yet another example that helps me understand the concept of the fan boy.

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