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.


Senate committee mandates NASA award 2nd lunar lander contract

More crap from Congress: A Senate committee has approved a new NASA authorization that requires the agency to award a second lunar lander contract — in addition to the one given to SpaceX — even though that authorization gives NASA no additional money to pay for that second contract.

This provision was inserted by senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). Washington state also happens to be the state where one of the rejected companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, is located. I wonder how much cash Bezos’ has deposited in Cantwell’s bank account.

This provision not only does not give NASA any cash to build two lunar landers, what NASA dubs the Human Landing System (HLS), it forces NASA to violate other laws.

This new NASA authorization bill would require NASA to fund HLS design, development, testing and evaluation “for not fewer than 2 entities” and gives the agency just 30 days after the bill is enacted into law to do it.

How NASA could implement that in such a short time is a mystery. It went through a source selection process and chose a winner with documentation as to why. That decision is under protest at GAO, which must make a ruling by August 4. GAO can uphold the award or require NASA to change its decision. Either way, how an additional layer of congressionally-directed procurement action would affect that process is murky and could hang like a Damoclean sword over HLS, delaying its development and the timeline for putting astronauts back on the Moon. HLS is necessary for ferrying crews between lunar orbit and the surface.

Not to mention NASA does not have the money to pay another contractor. The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits agencies from spending money they do not have. That is why NASA chose only one company in the first place.

This is just another example of corrupt micro-managing from Congress. Congress surely has the right to demand such things, but to not fund it properly guarantees nothing will get built, or if it does it will eventually cost far more and take far longer to build (as has been the case with SLS).

The biggest irony here is that the contract winner, SpaceX, is still proceeding full speed with building its lunar lander, Starship, despite the hold up of NASA funding because of the protests. It has raised about $6 billion in private investment capital, and is also beginning to earn money from its Starlink satellite constellation that has the potential to bring in billions more. While Blue Origin sat on its hands waiting for a government hand-out, SpaceX pushed forward, using profit and private capital as its primary funding source.

In the end, it is becoming very obvious which of these differing approaches will succeed.

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21 comments

  • Ron Desmarais

    This is why we need to separate the Commercial Spaceflight industry from government funding as soon as possible. My hope is that SpaceX develops the Lunar Starship independently, and then proceeds to not only land on the Moon but establish a base there. Then Bezos and the corrupt politicians can take the next 10 years to spend money on their kludge of an HLS without delaying the innovation needed to actually get the job done. I used to have a lot of respect for Jeff Bezos, not so much any more.

  • Igor

    Yep. Once again Porkulus raises its ugly head, and my useless Democrap Senator has to stick her finger in the light socket one more time.

    Rest assured, somebody is shoving (shoveling?) payments under the table to Cantspell, so this grabage appears. (Yes, I mis-spelled that purposefully)

    Go, SpaceX, go. Here’s my feelings about that, it’s a good video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY7N02eZGoQ

    -Igor

  • Chris Lopes

    Since he’ll need it for Mars, my guess is Musk will develop the lander version of Starship with or without NASA. It may end up that the first astronauts going back to the Moon will be wearing the SpaceX logo on their spacesuits instead of a NASA one.

  • Ron Desmarais

    Igor,
    That link is hysterical, thanks!

  • Ray Van Dune

    I believe that SpaceX also builds its StarLink satellites in Senator Cantwell’s constituency, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that involves a lot more jobs, and ships more product, than Blue Origin.

  • Jay

    You guys might want to hear how Maria Cantwell is funding Bezos from Breitbart.com: “Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the powerful chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, plans to attempt to use a bipartisan piece of legislation meant to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s technological advances to instead steer what could end up being a huge boon of a federal contract worth billions of dollars to a company operating in her home state owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.” The full article can be seen here: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/05/11/cantwell-uses-anti-china-plan-moon-landing-contract-space-company-washington/

    Cantspell…err…. Cantwell received $5,400 from Bezos. But I am sure Amazon or other Bezos subsidiary companies have contributed a lot more.

  • Jeff Wright

    Now it is always good to have a back-up, guys.

    I had two cars for awhile-thinking that they can’t BOTH tear up at the same– God and I still have a laugh over that one…….at least….He does.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Eric Berger breaks it down well:
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/05/congress-fires-warning-shot-at-nasa-after-spacex-moon-lander-award/

    All this handwaving…
    It seems to fly under the radar out there in the wide world that this contract is for the First Lunar Landing Only. There will shortly be another competition for the sustainable flight program with at least two providers chosen. Sure the money will come a bit later than this contract, but the funding amounts will likely be even more, given the desire for a regular flight cadence. Blue won’t be ready for at least another 10 years, so is it really worth holding up the entire program for a single manned flight?

    The good bit: This piece of legislature has a long way to go before making it into law. There are several opportunities to remove it before then. Also, even if it does make it all the way into law intact, during appropriations it can also be removed/rewritten.

    I’d hope for sanity to prevail, but our government doesn’t have a great track record in that department.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Yeah Jeff Wright, I do still hope that Mr. Bezos can turn his failure of a space company around. They’ve got some really great ideas, and Jeff’s long term goals are truly revolutionary to sustainable life on this planet. And we need about 10 SpaceXs (SpaceXes? SpaceX’s? lol) and Blue Origins to make that happen.

    Hopefully Blue losing this contract, then losing the protest, then losing that helpful bit of legislation will be the kick in the pants he apparently needs to get his company to ACTUALLY REACH ORBIT.

  • Jeff Wright

    Bezos needs to really hit the checkbook hard.

    Over at Secret Projects Forum is the unfortunately named William Mook who wants an uber HLLV with a payload of eighteen hundred tons.

    That’s vision!

  • mkent

    A Senate committee has approved a new NASA authorization that requires the agency to award a second lunar lander contract — in addition to the one given to SpaceX — even though that authorization gives NASA no additional money to pay for that second contract.

    This is flat-out false. The bill authorizes $10.032 billion over six years for the HLS. This is enough money for both SpaceX and one of the other two bidders on the original contract.

    Not to mention NASA does not have the money to pay another contractor. The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits agencies from spending money they do not have. That is why NASA chose only one company in the first place.

    This is also false. The middle part — “The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits agencies from spending money they do not have. ” is true, but the surrounding sentences are false.

    NASA only claims they are true because NASA is insisting on the first manned landing occur in 2024, but this was never Congress’s intent. Congress has always intended that the first manned Artemis landing occur in 2028. Even the $850 million / year for FY21 to FY28 would afford either of the other two proposals, but a more realistic budget profile would likely afford either of them and SpaceX (and perhaps even both of the other two without SpaceX).

    But the point is moot. Regardless of what NASA could have done on the original RFP, this bill authorizes the spending to accommodate the additional lander.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Authorizations are not Appropriations, which is likely Mr. Z’s point.

    However, if the bill does makes it past all the hurdles reasonably intact, there’s a wide range of space topics covered in this amendment, including the schedule push to 2028. It’s worth a read:

    https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Cantwell_1-as-modified-2.pdf

  • Edward

    Once again, Congress is playing Rocket scientist, telling NASA how to do its job rather than responding to NASA as they tell Congress what they need to do the job. It is like a city telling its fire department that there will be a Dalmatian riding on every truck, because it looks so cute. Valuable resources are expended unnecessarily, and the dog is a distraction at the fire scene, but at least the city’s fire department is the cutest in the world.

    From the Ars Technica article:

    There’s just one problem with this requirement—NASA says it doesn’t need the Exploration Upper Stage to complete its early Artemis Moon missions. The first launches will use a commercially available upper stage, which is powerful enough to launch a crew of astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft to the Moon.

    This legislation therefore burdens NASA with the upper stage development—likely to cost about $10 billion and take five years—at a time when the agency is busy enough trying to complete the first Moon missions.

    Congress is creating a distraction from achieving the goal. There are other areas with Congress-induced problems:

    So what is this? It’s basically a test article of the SLS rocket’s core stage. Such an element, which NASA has not asked for, would effectively allow NASA and Boeing to perform tests on an SLS prototype at Stennis Space Center in Southern Mississippi in perpetuity.

    This looks more like micromanaging in order to spend money rather than produce product or deliver services to the taxpayer or the citizen. SLS was supposed to be based upon well understood technology and existing working parts, so continuous testing should not be necessary or desirable. The idea was to save money, not to spend it in perpetuity.

    Commercial companies put their money where it will do the most good to get desired products to the market as soon as possible, with the highest quality possible for the lowest price as possible. Profit is the reward for this efficiency.

    Regardless, the Cantwell amendment signals a couple of basic facts about the US Senate. First of all, some of its members are really unhappy with NASA’s decision to give SpaceX a large contract for a lunar lander. And secondly, they’re still choosing parochial politics over what NASA says it actually needs to return to the Moon.

    When we let government run things, all we get is what government wants. When we let free market capitalism run things, we get what the market (We the People) want.

    Jeff Wright wrote: “Bezos needs to really hit the checkbook hard.

    That may be the wrong approach. Blue Origin is taking so long because it has an endless supply of money. Bezos can run Blue Origin as though it were his hobby. SpaceX is producing results because it has to generate revenues in order to stay in business.

    mkent,
    All appropriation bills must originate in the House, not in the Senate. The Constitution is explicit in that. NASA may be authorized to spend money, but until Congress appropriates it, NASA does not have the money to spend. In addition, money cannot be diverted from a project that has the money already appropriated in order to spend it on another project that only has the money authorized. Money must be spent where it was appropriated, it cannot even be saved but must be spent. The Supreme Court was adamant about that.

  • pzatchok

    The only way this pays off is if SpaceX still builds its lander and only gets there second.
    Which will not happen. SpaceX will be there first and then the second contractor will slow down or quit entirely. Congress could cancel it because its no longer needed.
    All the cash given to it will be wasted.

    All of this is just a way of keeping everyone else in the space game.

    If you believe in your project just build it and someone will buy it.

    I don’t call Ford to design and then build me a car. And pay them first.
    They do everything first then put a price on it and then I come by and buy it if I like it.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “SpaceX will be there first and then the second contractor will slow down or quit entirely. Congress could cancel it because its no longer needed.

    The philosophy is to have two systems in place in case one of them becomes unavailable. This is why both Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrup Grumman) and SpaceX fly Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions and why Boeing’s Starliner has not been cancelled.

    If you believe in your project just build it and someone will buy it.

    This is the lesson of the F-20 Tigershark. In the 1980s, the government said that they wanted to do exactly this kind of procurement for aircraft, and Northrup fell for it. They spent $150 million developing and building three F-20 prototypes, only to have the Air Force say that it was not sophisticated enough for them. Because the Air Force was unwilling to buy any, no other government was willing to buy any, so Northrup wrote off the bad investment, and no one ever tried to do that ever, ever again. Even with CRS and Commercial Crew Program, no company was willing to just build it and hope that the government would buy it. One of the problems that the National Team (Blue Origin, etc.) and Dynetics had was that they were unwilling to work on their Human Landing Systems (HLS) without an actual contract in hand. With the government, working on speculation does not pay off.

    It may look like this is what SpaceX is doing, but they have their own purpose for a planetary manned landing system, so they are merely developing that system in such a way that it works for NASA’s purpose, too. It does not cost SpaceX much to design-in a lunar-capable option in addition to their Martian version. SpaceX is designing Starship to have several missions, from taking satellites to orbit, refueling interplanetary Starships, taking cargo to Mars and to the Moon (two different versions of Starship), taking man to Mars, the Moon, CisLunar space, and Earth orbit, and transporting men and material point to point on Earth. I have yet to hear SpaceX speak of using a Starship as a space station, so if they do that later, they may end up with the retrofit problem and associated costs.

    This is the beauty of knowing the intended missions during the development phase. The missions can be built into the system rather than try to later retrofit the system for a new mission. SLS had no mission when it was in development which is why it is not suitable for a lunar mission. In order to go to the Moon (or to an asteroid), NASA had to retrofit the system with a lunar space station and an HLS at extra cost.

  • mkent

    All appropriation bills must originate in the House, not in the Senate. The Constitution is explicit in that. NASA may be authorized to spend money, but until Congress appropriates it, NASA does not have the money to spend. In addition, money cannot be diverted from a project that has the money already appropriated in order to spend it on another project that only has the money authorized. Money must be spent where it was appropriated, it cannot even be saved but must be spent. The Supreme Court was adamant about that.

    Well, yeah. But that contradicts nothing I said in my comment. If you’re going to continue to call me out by name, please respond to things I actually say.

    This is the lesson of the F-20 Tigershark…Because the Air Force was unwilling to buy any, no other government was willing to buy any, so Northrup wrote off the bad investment, and no one ever tried to do that ever, ever again.

    Until Boeing spent their own money to develop the T-7 Red Hawk and won the T-X contract with it. But for over 30 years you would have been right. Hopefully for the taxpayers’ sake, the lesson of the Tigershark has finally been unlearned.

  • Edward

    mkent,
    You wrote: “But that contradicts nothing I said in my comment.

    I didn’t say that it contradicted anything you said. But this bill is a Senate bill, and I was making that as a clarification of how appropriation and authorization are two different things. Trent Castanaveras had said the same thing, but without the reason behind it, yet you didn’t get on his case. Why single out my comment but not his? Did you fail to realize that Trent was responding to you?

    If you’re going to continue to call me out by name, please respond to things I actually say.

    You noted in another thread that you have paid attention to my discussions with others, yet you don’t seem to realize that when I am responding to specific statements, rather than making a general statement, I will repeat the exact statement to which I am responding.

    Since you don’t notice these things, let me also clarify that I will make statements directly to people by addressing them directly, as I have done in this comment, and other times I make statements to everyone in general by prefixing my comment with something like “mkent wrote:” then repeating the statement to which I am commenting. This is how I comply with exactly what you requested.

    Until Boeing spent their own money to develop the T-7 Red Hawk and won the T-X contract with it.

    Had Boeing done this on speculation, I would have been wrong, but the Air Force provided requirements and set up a competition that it at least partially funded out of its own budget. The winner of the competition was virtually guaranteed to get the contract. This not the method that you suggested, build on speculation, nor was it the method Northrup followed, which was to build on speculation, but it is closer to the usual Air Force procurement method, with the modification that prototypes were built, rather than the usual cost-plus development project.

  • pzatchok

    The two are better than one option for NASA has never been proven to be workable.
    It has never worked for anything NASA.
    Did they have two launchers for the Apollo missions? No if one could not fly they just fixed it.
    Are they using two different return vehicles coming back from the ISS? No, if one does not work they wait for the next flight.
    Even with the ISS leaking like a bad tub they have yet to dock a second Dragon or any other ship capable of bringing everyone back at once.
    They just plan on waiting.

    Also, for payload launches.
    When was the last time NASA took the payload from one launcher and assigned it to another because of a problem with the launcher?
    When they do do a switch they always cancel the failed launcher. Granted it might be assigned to a different payload later but its not going to be used for the first one anymore.
    And any switch that does happen takes months if not years to implement. Its not like they keep a back up of anything just waiting around.

    50 years of NASA and not one emergency back up was ever planned for and implemented.

    NASA buying a second man rated capsule that does not automatically fit on the other launcher is a fail.
    Buying a second launcher for it that will not fit the first capsule is also a fail.

    Everything needs to interchange. If not its just wasted money.

    Two lunar landers? Whats the emergency? Once the first one lands why even fund the second?
    Exactly how far behind SpaceX is everyone else? If SpaceX lands on the moon in 5 years will there even be a close competitor other than China?

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You asked: “Two lunar landers? Whats the emergency? Once the first one lands why even fund the second?

    Wouldn’t a second lander be a step in the direction of having the backups that you apparently think NASA should have?

    The two are better than one option for NASA has never been proven to be workable.

    This may depend upon whether NASA would have chosen Starliner over Crew Dragon. If so, then having the second option has already worked.

    On the other hand, a few years back there were failures on both commercial resupply vehicles as well as one of the government resupply ships, leaving only the Progress cargo ship available for resupply missions, for a few months. Three out of four options were unavailable all at the same time. That must have been an interesting time for the ISS logistics people.

    50 years of NASA and not one emergency back up was ever planned for and implemented.

    An excellent point. Even the idea of using the Lunar Module as a lifeboat, as eventually happened for Apollo 13, was not planned, just implemented (to repeat: it was only an idea, not a plan). However, NASA had wanted a lifeboat for ISS, called the Crew Return Vehicle (also Assured Crew Return Vehicle), but George W. Bush cancelled it in a money-saving move. NASA seems to be trying to move in the right direction but is being hampered by its government overlords.

    Generally, NASA’s emergencies have not been foreseen (although two should have been, and some say that Russia’s Soyuz 1 was foreseen). Instead NASA chose to put in place training and procedures in order to handle unforeseen situations and chose to avoid single-point-failures (e.g. have backups) in an attempt to prevent emergencies in the first place. For the early days of spaceflight, this seems reasonable for the period during which we learn what really goes wrong in space (e.g. airbag-deploy lights illuminate (Mercury’s Friendship 7), landing computers overload (Apollo 11), or the serious problem of an attitude control thruster that won’t stop (Gemini 8)). Lessons are learned in spacecraft that do not happen in aircraft:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong#Gemini_8

    Gene Kranz wrote, “The crew reacted as they were trained, and they reacted wrong because we trained them wrong.” The mission planners and controllers had failed to realize that when two spacecraft were docked, they must be considered one spacecraft. Kranz considered this the mission’s most important lesson.

    Aircraft now have quite a bit of equipment, plans and designs, and procedures to prevent or mitigate various emergencies that have come up in the past, and we are seeing fewer and fewer truly unique emergencies (such as birds striking both engines during climb to altitude, as happened in 2009 resulting in an airplane floating in the Hudson River). The people we think of as flight attendants — delivering drinks, peanuts or pretzels, and inflight meals — are actually emergency personnel. Eventually, we should expect spacecraft, space stations, and lunar bases to have similar equipment, plans and designs, and personnel.

  • pzatchok

    NASA now has the perfect life boat.
    Buy or lease a 7 person Dragon and leave it docked to the station.

    What we really need is an industry wide standards board made up of all the private aerospace companies.
    Standard docking ports to start.
    Standard power settings.
    Metric or standard?
    Space suit fittings and construction.
    Coffee, Starbucks or just good old Folgers
    Plumbing fittings..Air fittings.

    I am sure they have most of it covered but does it include the whole world?

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Metric or standard? That’s a no brainer. There are only three countries in the world that still insist on using the standard measurement system, the silly stubborn throwbacks lol. Go metric or stay on Earth!

    The bill modifications continue:
    https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/spacex-hls-contract-gets-protection-in-revised-senate-bill/

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