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.

Webb telescope finally completed, ready for shipment to launchpad

After more than two decades of construction (ten years behind schedule) and more than $10 billion (20 times the original cost), the infrared James Webb Space Telescope has finally completed its testing and is ready for shipment to its launch site in French Guiana to be mounted on an Ariane 5 rocket.

Now that observatory testing has concluded, shipment operations have begun. This includes all the necessary steps to prepare Webb for a safe journey through the Panama Canal to its launch location in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America. Since no more large-scale testing is required, Webb’s clean room technicians have shifted their focus from demonstrating it can survive the harsh conditions of launch and work in orbit, to making sure it will safely arrive at the launch pad. Webb’s contamination control technicians, transport engineers, and logistics task forces are all expertly prepared to handle the unique task of getting Webb to the launch site. Shipping preparations will be completed in September.

If all goes well, NASA and ESA hope to launch the telescope in late October. It will then take about six months for the telescope to unfold and reach its operating position a million miles from Earth in the Earth’s shadow.

Let us all pray that everything works. If it does not, there will be nothing that can be done to fix it for probably at least five years, if then, as it will be out of reach of any maintenance mission, manned or unmanned.


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  • Bob

    Why the launch from French Guiana?

  • Bob: That is where the Ariane 5 launches from.

  • Ray Van Dune

    French Guiana is where the Ariane 5 launches from, the launch being an ESA contribution to the mission. It has the advantage of an equatorial location.

  • David Eastman

    Noting the post a few entries down about TMT, and then this one about the chronically late and overbudget Webb, one has to feel a little pain for the astronomy field. Try and build a ground based telescope, which should in theory be relatively easy, and your project runs in the NIMBY blender. Try and build a space telescope, and it will eat all your funds and then some, and might possibly see first light before everyone involved retires. Hopefully someone will decide to be the guinea pig and launch something fast, cheap, and effective on Starship and turn things around in the next decade.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I think center of the far side of the Moon may be an excellent location for an observatory, combining the advantages of no atmosphere with relative simplicity compared to free-floating space-based solutions… for two weeks per month of course! Lunar starships should be well suited to ferrying large and heavy components to the far-side observatory, either from the Lunar South Pole base or directly from Earth.

  • Peter Monta

    Yes, Starship seems a golden opportunity for cheap-and-cheerful telescopes that need not obsess over every gram. Design them like Starlink birds to be deployed en masse (and then replaced every few years). Send a few to inner heliocentric orbits for asteroid spotting untroubled by solar glare. For apertures greater than 9 meters (!), do some segmented in-space self-assembly.

    Even so, the TMT lawlessness is shameful.

  • Ray Van Dune

    The Starship seems to be a ubiquitous solution to many problems don’t it? Makes me ask – what was NASA thinking when they in effect asked for an “Apollo Mk II” design for the HLS system?

    My theory is that they simply lacked the imagination to conceive of anything beyond that! But how the hell do you build bases or far side telescopes with Apollo Mk II’s?! Answer: you don’t!

  • Jeff Wright

    Let the Hawaiians worship their stupid rocks

  • I’d like to see a craft operate and demonstrate some robustness before assigning it missions.

  • Andi

    ”reach its operating position a million miles from Earth in the Earth’s shadow.”

    How does it stay there?

  • Andi: The location is one of the Lagrange points where the orbital gravitational fields of the Earth and Sun (or possibly the Earth and Moon, I forget which) are balanced. Webb will circle in what they call a halo orbit around the point. It will require still periodic adjustments, but little fuel to keep it there.

  • Andi

    Thanks, Bob, I hadn’t realized that the Earth-.Sun L2 was that far from Earth (It couldn’t be Earth/Moon as that point would follow the Moon’s orbit and not stay in the Earth’s shadow).

  • wayne

    great question– orbital mechanics always boggle my mind.
    ->lots-o-visuals and factoids on the orbit at their website,is%20called%20the%20second%20Lagrange%20point%20or%20L2.

  • pzatchok

    I pray it works perfect.

  • Max

    The launch site is about to be hit with a hurricane. There might be other weather delays as the launch time gets closer.

    L2 is nearly balanced between the gravitational force of the earth and sun. The moon has a disturbance influence. Fortunately the craft will be 1,000,000 miles out. The moon is 1/4 that distance.
    It will still require a course correction to maintain balance every 23 days.
    I thought this position was chosen to be in earths shadow allowing the craft to be very cold. The James Webb telescope is solar powered, and Must Circle L2 to remain in the sunlight. The diameter of the circle is nearly the same as our moon’s orbital diameter.
    It will take a month to get into position, another five months of testing and calibration before the science work begins.

  • MDN

    WRT space telescopes we should endeavor to follow the Starlink model. Launch lots of smaller, simpler, telescopes in big batches that work together. And launch a new batch regularly to efficiently deploy new and better sensor tech.

    The future is swarms, not big battleship class platforms like JWST.

  • MadRocketSci

    The reason why astronomers like big apertures is the fundamental optical relationship between resolution and aperture: More aperture, more angular resolution.

    To make a synthetic aperture, you need the ability to coordinate the location of the receiving elements to within some fraction of the wavelength of the observed light, and to produce relative inteference. RF synthetic apertures rely on our electronics being faster than the wave we’re manipulating. Optical synthetic apertures will have to rely on very fiddly interferometers between all pairs of elements, because optical light is 100s THz – far faster than any signal processing elements we can build.

    There was a proposed optical synthetic aperture mission back in the 90s, when it looked like such a project might still be possible. Terrestrial Planet Finder was intended to use a very long baseline between elements to resolve planets orbiting other stars and collect direct light from their atmospheres. It was a beautiful idea: Even then the proposed space telescops weren’t tiny, and the optics were very complicated.

    So it’s not quite a simple thing to merely decree that “the future is small”. Nature has its own ideas about how things have to work.

    Launching large mirrors into space is also difficult – the mirrors need to be very close to wavelength-level perfect in shape, and any defects corrected by other equally precisely located optics down the line.

  • Max

    I’ve heard that precisely controlled optics of thousands (millions?) of small lenses, developed for cell phones, when overlapped, create very high definition results. I believe new spysats are developed this way? (cubesat’s)
    Cheap, light, having capabilities rivaling the Hubble telescope without the technical difficulties.
    It’s a shame that’s such an optical capability overlapping the infrared of the JWST wasn’t included with the project to complement what the telescope sees, in the visible and ultraviolet wavelength.

  • Edward

    David Eastman noted: “Try and build a space telescope, and it will eat all your funds and then some, and might possibly see first light before everyone involved retires.

    Webb’s main problem was that it tried to do too many new things all at once, every one of them being mission critical. Each time they had a problem, they slowed everything down, which meant that they ran into problems in a serial fashion rather than in parallel, causing delay after delay. A less ambitious telescope should be able to stay closer to budget and schedule.

    Ray Van Dune noted: “The Starship seems to be a ubiquitous solution to many problems don’t it?

    The lift capability is why Congress wanted SLS. However, Starship was designed for business, so SpaceX made sure that it would launch regularly and that it was flexible in its payloads and uses. One Starship could launch people and cargo to space, then after some refueling take them all to Mars. Starship’s mission was clear. SLS’s was not.

    Landing people and cargo on the Moon requires few changes to the design to land them on Mars.

    It wasn’t so much a lack of imagination on NASA’s part as it was a lack of courage to build upon the lessons learned by operating the Space Shuttle. Congress directed the design of Constellation and SLS, and they failed to allow it to be flexible to accommodate multiple missions. They didn’t even give it a primary mission. Cost and availability (launch cadence) were not factors in Congress’s design, but were high priorities for SpaceX. This is a good reason why we should never again let Congress pretend to be rocket scientists; they just aren’t capable of doing the job.

    Max wrote: “L2 is nearly balanced between the gravitational force of the earth and sun.

    It is also a balance with angular momentum. An orbit is a balance between gravity and angular momentum, and a Lagrange point (which is more accurately a family of orbits rather than a single point) balances angular momentum with gravity from two bodies. It is a three-body orbital solution, even though we don’t (yet) have the math to calculate other types of three body orbits as easily as we calculate two-body orbits. (The upcoming LUCY mission is intended to investigate asteroids in the Sun-Jupiter L4 and L5 orbits.)

    MDN wrote: “WRT space telescopes we should endeavor to follow the Starlink model. Launch lots of smaller, simpler, telescopes in big batches that work together.

    This may be a better idea than MDN realizes. Having separate telescopes working together give a large baseline, which can be used to get the resolution of an equally large diameter telescope. The light collection ability is much less, but it is additive with the number of telescopes in the array. It is how the Very Large Array radio telescopes in New Mexico works. It is an alternative to the large aperture telescopes that MadRocketSci mentioned and is the concept that Max mentioned. Put some telescopes in Earth orbit and you can get resolution similar to an Earth-sized telescope.

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