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 Horizons returns the last data from Pluto fly-by

The New Horizons science team announced today that they have finally received the last bit of data obtained by the spacecraft during its July 14, 2015 fly-by of Pluto.

Having traveled from the New Horizons spacecraft over 3.1 billion miles (five hours, eight minutes at light speed), the final item – a segment of a Pluto-Charon observation sequence taken by the Ralph/LEISA imager – arrived at mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, at 5:48 a.m. EDT on Oct. 25. The downlink came via NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. It was the last of the 50-plus total gigabits of Pluto system data transmitted to Earth by New Horizons over the past 15 months.

Once they have checked this data, they will wipe the spacecraft’s onboard hard drives to prepare for the January 1, 2019 fly-by of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • wayne

    Ref: “…they will wipe the spacecraft’s onboard hard drives..”
    “Do you mean, like, with a cloth?”

    On a more serious note; the short video at the website is very informative, as to how they accomplished the download.
    [This is Amazing Stuff!]

    Total techie question:
    What kind of Hard-Drive(s) are on-board? Solid-State or what?

  • Happy to hear that the data is (presumably) complete, but the transmission times illustrate how slow light really is.

  • LocalFluff

    @Blair Ivey, It isn’t light speed that is limiting the download speed. Light takes only about 4½ hours to reach Earth from New Horizons. It is the low signal strength that requires low data frequency or repeated transmissions to be received, even by 100 meter sized radio telescopes in the DSN. And the low signal strength is because of the probe’s low power supply. Beyond Jupiter (at least Saturn) solar power is not an option. And RTGs, the plutonium “battery” running New Horizons is a sloth by design, I hear it is very expensive to scale up. The only solution for an ambitious exploration of the outer Solar system would be using proper nuclear power plants, but those are politically banned.

  • Wayne

    From the video–
    >Downlink can handle about 7 MB’s per hour for 2, 8-hour passes per day.

    The efficiency of these RTG’s is something like 10%, but newer designs using different isotopes, point toward ramping that up to 30% or more. (but as Localfluff opined– “it’s political.”)

  • Gealon

    Good to see they are practicing good data preservation techniques. Would hate for those long distance emails to get lost.

    And on the less silly side of things, while RTG’s have proven themselves to be useful in long duration missions where solar power is untenable, they are massively underpowered compared to the wattages one can get from a solar array, fuel cell, or nuclear reactor. Unfortunately, as was stated above, anything nuclear is looked down upon in the political world, especially when the word “Reactor” is tacked on, even worse if you use the word “Atomic.” They automatically think you’re some Dr. Strangelove/General Ripper reject if you use that word.

    But nuclear power truly is the only viable way to go. NTR propulsion would greatly reduce travel times and space based reactor technology would make possible other forms of propulsion as well that are as yet, unrealized, like MPD thrusters. Reactors would also produce the power needed to utilize higher bit rate radio and even laser communications. But politics as always seems to be the case, is in the way. I’m glad to see the Russians SLOWLY preparing to test a model of a nuclear engine, but we’ve had a functional engine for decades and have never used it on a space craft. That has to change if we are ever going to leave this planet.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *