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.

Rocket Lab provides detailed update on successful recovery of first stage after splashdown

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has now provided a detailed update on the company’s first successful recovery of the first stage of their Electron rocket from the ocean on November 19, 2020.

Much of the press release reiterates what the company CEO Peter Beck said on November 24th, but in much better engineering detail. Key finding:

The stage held up remarkably well – not bad after experiencing the trip to space and back in just 13 minutes. The carbon composite structure was completely intact. As expected, the heatshield on the base of the stage suffered some heat damage during re-entry. It was never designed for this load case, but before we strengthen the heat shield we wanted to see just how much heat it could take unchanged. With a wealth of data on this now, our team has already started working on upgrades for future recovery missions.

They also intend to re-fly some components from that stage. I have embedded below the fold their footage taken during from the inside of the first stage during its splashdown.

The next recovery attempt in early ’21 will also splash down in the ocean. Before they attempt a helicopter snatch from the air they want gather more data.


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  • David Eastman

    I know that the SpaceX Falcon 9 has a somewhat unconventional balance between the booster and upper stage, with the upper stage being larger than usual so that the staging occurs earlier in the flight, making the booster recovery easier. I wonder if the same is true for the Electron, or if they’ve succeeded in recovering a booster from a higher and faster point in the trajectory.

  • Brad


    I do think it is an interesting coincidence that the Falcon 9 and the Electron rockets share a similar engine arrangement, with 9 engines in the 1st stage, and one vacuum optimized engine in the 2nd stage! So it’s no surprise the burn time for the first stages are also similar, 152 seconds for the Electron and 180 seconds for the Falcon 9 (according to Spaceflight101 website).

    That burn time for the Falcon 9 may be a little deceiving, since any recovery of the first stage requires eating into the burn time by a significant margin.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I’ve not heard it mentioned before, but it seems as though SpaceX discovered a happy synergy that others overlooked, probably because they weren’t searching for it… that the essential system to reverse the booster’s trajectory and arrest its descent, the main engines, are already well-engineered for the job, being able to resist intense heating and very high forces by virtue of their core function, propulsion of a million-pound vehicle to hypersonic speeds!

    Of course, the next logical step was to eliminate the “reverse the booster’s trajectory” part, by stationing a landing pad at sea along the path the booster would take anyway, were it being thrown away like everyone else’s are! Barges are a lot easier to build than rockets!

    I wonder if even the barge could be eliminated by landing on a convenient island? Bermuda? Someplace in the Windward chain? How to get it back? An AN-225 might do it, or just plug in a nosecone and fly it back?

  • Edward

    Ray Van Dune,
    You wrote: “… that the essential system to reverse the booster’s trajectory and arrest its descent, the main engines, are already well-engineered for the job, being able to resist intense heating and very high forces by virtue of their core function, propulsion of a million-pound vehicle to hypersonic speeds!

    Please do consider the other systems that are not already subjected to the same (external) heating and pressure during launch. There is the plumbing, for instance. Even the engines depend upon some amount of cooling during launch, which they don’t get during reentry. The Merlins and Raptors would have had to have been designed with these extra problems in mind. Even Rocket Lab’s engine compartment would have been designed with these considerations. The engines, fuel tank dome, and other items may be a bit heavier than they could have been otherwise, but reusability always required tradeoffs that one-and-done didn’t need. Probably a reason why many engineers believed that reusability was impractical.

    I wonder if even the barge could be eliminated by landing on a convenient island?

    Although this sounds good, the reality is a bit different. The flights generally do not go in the direction of islands. Most will fly due east, some seem to be going south (where there may be some islands available, maybe), and ISS missions go toward the north.

    Return by barge, from an island landing, is the most likely method, as airplanes are usually only cost effective in delivering payloads to the launch site in a timely manner. Equipment returning from the launch site generally takes the slow but cheap routes, as time is no longer of the essence.

    Sorry about your dream of seeing an AN-225 carrying a Falcon booster. That would have been a good sight and picture.

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