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Next private SpaceX manned targeting December launch

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is now planning to launch in December the next private manned Dragon orbital mission, dubbed Polaris Dawn, and led by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who led the previous private Inspiration4 mission in September 2021.

Polaris Dawn is the first of three separate crewed launches, all of them funded by Isaacman. This first effort will see Isaacman flying a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft alongside Sarah Gillis, Anna Menon and Scott Poteet. (Both Gillis and Menon work at SpaceX.) The second launch aims to use a Dragon while the third is scheduled as the first crewed mission for Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation spacecraft.

…Among the mission’s aims is the first spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), of a private astronaut. The crew will use SpaceX-developed EVA suits for the effort. Crew Dragon will be depressurized for the spacewalk in a similar way that NASA’s Gemini capsules were in the 1960s, requiring all crew members to wear suits designed for a vacuum environment.

By not flying to ISS, Isaacman and SpaceX avoid the high fees NASA charges as well as its extensive requirements.

By remaining in orbit however the length of the mission will be limited to only a few days, rather than weeks. Thus, it underlines the growing need for private commercial space stations, not controlled by the government.

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 available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can 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. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


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


  • David Ross

    “By not flying to ISS, Isaacman and SpaceX avoid the high fees NASA charges as well as its extensive requirements…. Thus, it underlines the growing need for private commercial space stations, not controlled by the government.”
    I expect other stations would charge fees and enforce requirements too.
    They would however provide competition, forcing NASA (and the other agencies) to rethink what they can get away with.

  • Edward

    David Ross wrote: “I expect other stations would charge fees and enforce requirements too.

    The requirements would likely be based more on the limits of the station rather than governmental bureaucratic rules. My expectation is that commercial space stations will allow far more variety of use than the ISS has done over this first decade of its operational life. NASA has more proposed experiments than its ability to do them all (which probably still would have been true had it not been downsized by Bush), but a commercial space station will be far more eager to get paid to do more, not fewer, experiments. Government is government-oriented, whereas commercial is commercially-oriented. Commercial space needs to make money in order to survive, but government looks bad if it seems to be favoring one group or company. I expect a lot of manufacturing to be done on the commercial stations, manufacturing that benefits mankind and makes good profits for the companies doing it. Beneficial and profitable manufacturing that has not been done on ISS.

    The fees for commercial space stations would likely be based upon construction, launch, and operations costs rather than NASA’s arbitrary pricing, which seems to be searching for the limits that the traffic will bear.

    So what might the fees be?

    First, let us look at ISS costs and fees for a comparison. Last year, Robert reported the new NASA fees:

    There wasn’t much increase for experimenters going through NASA or NanoRacks. However, the Axiom customers are treated as “tourists,” for whom NASA increased the fees by 700%. The report says that Axiom customers are charged tourist rates whether or not they perform NASA-approved experiments (all experiments have to be approved by NASA).

    The result of the new policy is a much higher price charged by NASA to companies conducting private astronaut missions. Under the old policy, the life support and crew supplies for a hypothetical four-person, one-week mission to the ISS would cost $945,000, a figure that doesn’t include stowage, data or power. Under the new policy, the cargo, food and supplies charges for the same mission would be more than $2.5 million at the low end of the quoted cost ranges, plus $10 million in per-mission fees.

    A “tourist” crew of four costs $10 million to answer the doorbell, and $10 million for a weeklong stay. For each “tourist,” not counting the mandatory retired NASA astronaut, that is $3.3 million cover charge and $3.3 million per week of experimentation (~$14 million per month). Since New Zealand is working through Axiom, I suppose NASA is charging them the same rate, with the same requirement that a retired NASA astronaut be onboard to babysit them. The following article also states that Italy, Hungary, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are, for the time being, operating their own manned space programs through Axiom.

    Perhaps building, launching, and operating a commercial one-module four-man station costs, order of magnitude, $500 million (more than $150 million, less than $1.5 billion) for 10 years of operations. Perhaps the business plan assumes %50 occupancy, for ~ 50 months total rental for 4 people. Break even would be $10 million per month rental or $2.5 million per month per person. The financial risks are high, so the profit margin might also have to be high, perhaps the cost would be around $5 million per month per person or around $200,000 per day (more than $70 thousand, less than $700 thousand per day). This is comparable to NASA’s price for experimenters and much less than NASA’s price for tourists. An added benefit is that commercial space stations will be far more available than the ISS, which can only take one or two of these “tourist” flights each year, but each commercial station will require many such flights each year.

    Would there have to be separate supply flights, as with the ISS, or could all the needed supplies be brought up in the Dragon or (future manned) Dream Chaser? Supply flights will increase the cost of operations, but if all the needed supplies can come up with the crews then moving those supplies would be part of the $55 million cost per seat to get to the commercial space station in the first place — which overwhelms the rental cost.

    Either way, the cost of getting the astronauts and supplies to a commercial space station looks like it will be the driving cost of using these space stations; the rental fees would be relatively low for stays under a month or so. One advantage of commercial space stations is that the cost of twenty years of operations for all four of the stations currently under construction (all of them, not each of them) will be an of order of magnitude, or so, less than the $170 billion that ISS will likely cost for its construction and its operational phase from 2012 to 2030. Each of them will likely cost two orders of magnitude less, but being smaller would also likely generate less productivity. ISS holds six astronauts and each of the four commercial stations will hold four-ish astronauts, so we should expect 2/3 as much productivity from each of the four commercial stations.

    But for that price, the research that could be done on commercial space stations may not be required to become public domain in five years, as is required by NASA for experiments performed on the ISS, so companies will be able to obtain proprietary information, which is much more valuable to them than data that must be published, in five years, for all to use freely. This would be a huge benefit to a user of commercial stations.

    Manufacturing-for-profit could be done, which has yet to be done on ISS. This would be a huge benefit to humanity.

    So far, all the civilians flown on Dragon (both commercial flights) have not been tourists but experimenters, but we should expect that at some point there will be vacations rather than working flights, as the Russians have done for its tourists to ISS. As we have learned from earthly international customs checkpoints, there are two reasons for travel: business or pleasure, although I have long wondered which of those two going to a funeral falls under, because it is not business and it certainly isn’t a pleasure.

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