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 are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also 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.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

Relativity scrubs launch today again

Relativity today was once again unable to complete the first launch of its Terran-1 prototype rocket.

The failure to launch was not for want of trying. The first countdown was first put on hold at T-1:10 when a boat entered the range. Once removed, the launch team picked up the count from that point without any recycle, but at T-0 the rocket’s internal computer sensed an issue and aborted the launch.

The launch team then reassessed, adjusted that issue, and tried again for a launch at the last second of the launch window, essentially duplicating the circumstances of an instantaneous launch window. The count this time got down to T-45 seconds when once again the rocket’s internal computer sensed an issue and aborted the launch.

No word yet on when the company will try again. If anything, Relativity’s launch team is getting a lot of practice and training with each launch attempt, critical knowledge needed for future launches.

Some space startups threatened by Silicon Valley Bank failure

Link here. The companies mentioned in the article are Astra, BlackSky, Planet, Redwire, Rocket Lab, and Space Perspective.

Rocket Lab has about 8% of its cash assets now trapped by the closure. All the companies had loans from Silicon Valley Bank, some of which were paid off prior to the crash. This quote suggests the situation is critical for some space startups:

“It’s a very serious situation,” said a space sector entrepreneur who asked not to be identified. “Our balance is suddenly only $450. There has been no communication from SVB even after the event became known. Our primary SVB liaison, who has been very attentive in the past, is unreachable by any means. It’s appalling.”

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 4 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. The price for an autographed copy of this rare collector's item is now $150 (plus $5 shipping).


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $155 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

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


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Live stream of the first launch attempt of Relativity’s Terran-1 rocket

I have embedded below the live stream of the first launch attempt of Relativity’s Terran-1 rocket, presently scheduled with a three hour launch window that opens at 1:00 pm (Eastern). The live stream will go live at noon.

The first launch of a new rocket is exceedingly challenging, and almost never succeeds. The key however is the data obtained that can be used to make the next launch attempt a success.

A lot rides on this launch. Relativity already has obtained $1.2 billion in launch contracts plus more than $1 billion in private investment capital, despite having never launched anything. Moreover, the Terran-1 rocket is really a prototype for its larger Terran-R rocket, which is intended to compete directly for the larger payloads that companies like SpaceX and ULA launch.

» Read more

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, 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.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

March 10, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.




  • Chinese pseudo-company Laser-Starcom, a startup of space laser communication, “raises 10s of millions of Chinese Yuan in round A”


Today’s blacklisted American: Mother sued by teacher’s union for requesting her child’s kindergarten curriculum

Nicoletta-Solas testifying to Congress

They’re coming for you next: Nicoletta Solas, a Rhode Island mother of a 5-year-old, was harassed by her school board and sued by the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teacher’s union in the nation, for simply requesting her child’s kindergarten curriculum. As she stated bluntly during her testimony at House hearing on March 2, 2023,

If you ask questions about public education, they will come after you. … My school district and my teachers’ union didn’t want to just hide the curriculum from me, they wanted to ruin my life.

Below is video of her full testimony. All she wanted to know was whether the school would be teaching queer theory to her 5-year-old. The ugly and vicious response to this request, by the school, the school board, and the NEA, is striking.
» Read more

Ingenuity completes 47th flight, scouting ahead of Perseverance

Ingenuity sitting ahead of Perseverance, on the delta
Click for original image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Though the science team has not, as of this posting, added the flight to Ingenuity’s flight log, according to the interactive map showing the positions of both Ingenuity and Perseverance on Mars, the helicopter completed its 47th flight yesterday as planned.

An annotated version of that map is to the right. The larger green dot marks Ingenuity’s new position. The smaller green dot marks its position when the panorama above was taken on February 27, 2023, capturing the helicopter in the distance (as indicated by the arrow). The yellow lines indicate the approximate area covered by that panorama. The blue dot marks Perseverance’s present position.

The flight’s planned distance was to go 1,410 feet to the southwest and “image science targets along the way.” As the helicopter also flew above Perseverance’s planned route, as indicated by the red dotted line, it also provided the rover team information about the ground Perseverance will travel along the way. Since the terrain here is generally not very rough, the information is not critical for route-picking. It might however spot some geological feature that bears a closer look that would not have been noticed by the rover alone.

Biden administration proposes more budget increases for NASA

In releasing its proposed federal budget for 2024 with many major spending increases, the Biden administration has also proposed a significant increase in NASA’s budget. the third year in a row it has done so.

The shortened summary version of the Biden budget proposal [pdf] covers its proposals for NASA in two pages, with the most important proposals as follows:

  • A half billion dollar increase in the budget for the Artemis program for a total of $8.1 billion.
  • A commitment to partner on Europe’s ExoMars Franklin rover mission, replacing Russia.
  • $949 million to develop the Mars sample return mission to bring back Perseverance’s core samples.
  • $180 million to begin development of “a space tug” that can de-orbit ISS as well as “be useful for other space transportation missions.”
  • $1.39 billion for developing new space technologies, an increase of $190 million.

The last two items will likely be money offered to many new commercial startups.

Though we can expect some resistance by the Republican House to most of the budget increases in the overall Biden budget proposal, expect Congress to rubber stamp the NASA increases, as it has done routinely in recent years. Congress might shift or reject some of these ideas, but generally, when all is said and done, it will only make superficial changes. NASA will likely more money.

House subcommittee proposes five bills that would change FCC operations

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on March 8, 2023 approved five bills affecting the FCC and how it operates.

The first bill [pdf], Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act, is the most significant, as it appears to try to establish legal limitations and rules specifically designed to address the FCC’s recent effort to expand its power and regulatory authority beyond what its legal authority allows. While most of the bill’s language appears to allow the FCC to do what it wants (including limiting or regulating future space stations and setting lifetime limits on all orbiting spacecraft), it also insists that licenses be approved quickly and adds this caveat:

[T]he Commission may not establish performance objectives that conflict with any standard practice adopted by the Secretary of Commerce.

In other words, the FCC cannot grab the regulatory responsibilities of other agencies, especially the Commerce Department, where Congress in recent years has been trying to shift most commercial regulatory authority.

Nonetheless, this bill appears to mostly endorse the FCC ‘s power grab.

The bills still have to be approved by the full committee, then approved by the full House, then approved by the Senate, and then signed by the president.

Russia considering bringing Soyuz launched on February 23rd home earlier

According to unnamed sources in the Russian press, Roscosmos officials are considering bringing the Soyuz capsule launched on February 23rd to ISS back to Earth in June rather than September, while moving up the launch of the next Soyuz manned mission.

As noted by space journalist Anatoly Zak:

The existence of such plans indicated that specialists had still been concerned about the possibility of a critical leak in the thermal control system of the fresh crew vehicle similar to those that hit two previous transport ships. Such change in schedule would also debunk the official explanation of previous two accidents by Roskosmos and NASA as caused by meteors rather than production defects.

The two previous coolant leaks occurred about three months after launch. Bringing the Soyuz home in June would get it home in about three and a half months, suggesting the Russians are no longer confident their Soyuz and Progress spacecraft can withstand six months in space.

If this plan is adopted it will also put less strain on the crew slated to come home on that Soyuz. Their mission has been planned for six months. Extending it to a full year without any prior preparation risks serious health issues.

China’s Long March 4C rocket launches two Earth observation satellites

China today used its Long March 4C rocket to launch two Earth observation satellites from one of its interior spaceports.

No word on whether the expendable first stage landed near habitable areas. In related news the upper stage of a Long March 2D rocket, launched in June 2022, burned up over Texas on March 8, 2023. Such upper stage uncontrolled de-orbits are not unusual, and the effort by this news outlet to make a big deal about it is just politics. Unlike the lower stages of China’s rockets that hit the ground right after launch, it is very unlikely any pieces reached the surface, and any that did were small and posed a small risk.

The 2023 launch race:

16 SpaceX
8 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise still leads China 17 to 8 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 17 to 13. SpaceX alone still leads the entire world, including American companies, 16 to 14.

March 9, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.


SpaceX successfully launches 40 OneWeb satellites

SpaceX today successfully launched another 40 OneWeb satellites, using its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

This was SpaceX’s third launch for OneWeb, helping to replace the Russians who broke its contract with OneWeb after its invasion of the Ukraine. The first stage completed its thirteenth flight, landing safely on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral. As amazing as this record is, it is not a record for the most reflights, which presently stands at fifteen. The fairings completed their sixth flight.

As of posting not all of OneWeb’s satellites have been deployed.

The 2023 launch race:

16 SpaceX
7 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise now leads China 17 to 7 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 17 to 12. SpaceX alone leads the entire world combined, including American companies, 16 to 13.

Ice volcano in the Martian high northern latitudes?

Ice volcano on Mars
Click for original image.

That the Martian surface becomes increasingly icy as one approaches its poles is becoming increasingly evident from orbital images. Today’s cool image provides us another data point.

The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and enhanced to post here, was taken on January 4, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is once again another terrain sample image, taken not as part of any particular research project but to fill a gap in the camera’s schedule so as to maintain its temperature. With such pictures, it is hard to predict what will be seen, though the scientists try to find interesting things. In this case the camera team succeeded quite nicely, capturing what appears to me to be a small volcano with two calderas.

This volcano however has almost certainly not spouted lava but mud and water.
» Read more

Pushback: Texas A&M to stop favoring minorities in hiring & admission policies

Texas A&M logo
Texas A&M: abandoning its discriminatory

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Less than a month after Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered all state agencies to cease considering race and gender in hiring, Texas A&M (TAMU) officials announced they were removing all mention of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies from the university’s hiring and admissions practices.

After receiving the Feb. 6 memo, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp immediately ordered all A&M System institutions to review their employment and admission practices and confirm their compliance, according to the university. … Sharp directed all universities and agencies within the TAMU system to remove the DEI statements from their employment or admissions practices. The directive also standardizes faculty and staff applications, limiting them to a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statements about research and teaching philosophies, and professional references. It further instructs universities and agencies to make all websites or printed materials dealing with employment and admission practices compliant with the directive, says TAMU.

Will this change anything? It appears that for now, no, not much. » Read more

Another orbital tug & servicing company raises investment capital

Starfish Space, a new entrant into the orbital tug & servicing industry, has successfully raised $14 million in new investment capital, in addition to the $7 million it had raised in a previous fund-raising round.

The company hopes to launch a test satellite later this year, dubbed Otter Pup, which will undock from the orbital tub of another company, Launcher Space, do maneuvers, and then redock.

Starfish’s plan calls for Otter Pup to be sent into orbit this summer as a rideshare payload on SpaceX’s Transporter-8 mission. The spacecraft will be deployed from Launcher Space’s Orbiter space tug, and then will execute a series of maneuvers with a xenon-fueled electric propulsion system to move away from the tug.

If all goes well, the Otter Pup will return to the vicinity of the Orbiter, and then use an electrostatic-based capture mechanism to latch onto a docking target on the space tug. It could take months to test out the Otter Pup’s systems and tweak them as necessary for its test hookups.

Though the company says it will offer tug services once operational, it appears it is mostly aiming for the satellite robotic servicing market. It, like Astroscale, has developed its own docking capture device, which it will try to convince satellite companies to attach to their satellites. It will then use this to dock and service those satellites. Since these capture devices are proprietary, the number that each company gets onboard satellites will determine that company’s future sales.

This orbital servicing industry appears to be growing very quickly, now that launch costs have come down by about 90% since the arrival of SpaceX. For example, the orbital tug company Momentus is getting ready to launch its third mission.

Space Force assigns launchpads to four smallsat rocket startups

The Space Force has assigned launchpad space at Cape Canaveral to four different new smallsat rocket startup companies, ABL Space Systems, Stoke Space, Phantom Space, and Vaya Space, none of which have yet launched.

There are currently four active launch complexes on the Eastern Range; Launch Complex 37 for ULA Delta rockets; Launch Complex 40 for SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets; Launch Complex 41 for ULA Atlas rockets; and Launch Complex 39A, which is owned by NASA.

ABL Space Systems, which has the RS1 rocket, has been allocated property at Space Launch Complex 15. ABL’s first orbital attempt in January failed. Stoke Space was allocated property at SLC 14. The launcher is based in Washington state and working to develop a fully reusable rocket. And Phantom Space and Vaya Space were allocated space at SLC 13. Phantom Space is developing the Daytona Launch System and executed a successful hot fire test in November.

This article provides a nice overview of the four companies, of which Vaya is the newest entrant into the smallsat rocket industry.

Space Force officials have made it clear they want to maximize use of their facility at the Cape, while helping to energize this private commercial market.

ISS maneuvers to avoid satellite

Though a collision was unlikely, Russian engineers fired the engines of a docked Progress freighter on March 6, 2023 to adjust ISS’s orbits in order to guaranteethat an Earth-observation satellite would fly past harmlessly.

At approximately 7:42 a.m. (12:42 GMT), thrusters on the Progress 83 resupply vessel currently docked with the International Space Station (ISS) fired for a little more than six minutes, raising the station’s orbit to prevent the potential collision, NASA said in a blog post (opens in new tab).

The satellite in question appears to have been an Argentinian Earth-observation satellite launched in 2020, according to Sandra Jones, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. In a tweet, Dr. Jonathan McDowell, astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, narrowed the possible candidates down to Nusat-17, noting the constellation’s orbital decay.

The article at the link includes a nice graph showing the number of times per year engineers have had to do this since 1999. The number of such maneuvers ranges from 0 to 5 per year, with no clear trend up or down. That lack of a trend suggests the constant howls claiming that space junk is a growing problem might be a bit overstated. This is not to say it isn’t a problem, merely that the problem might not be as severe as some claim.

March 8, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.

  • Blue Origin faces two discrimination lawsuits
  • Both suits accuse the company of weeding out older employees, exclusively based on age. I wonder if many of those older workers simply had the knowledge and experience to realize working for Blue Origin was turning out to be a dead end.




Relativity scrubs launch attempt today

After several countdown recycles Relativity’s launch team finally decided to scrub today’s first launch of its 3D-printed Terran-1 rocket.

At one point the countdown got to T-1:10, but was aborted at that point because the temperatures in the oxygen tank were not within acceptable values.

The launch window was three hours long, and it appeared they simply ran out of time. As of posting more details have not yet been released. The link above goes to the live stream.

America’s blacklist culture: Survey finds almost half of America’s major corporations are eagerly willing to blacklist others

1792 Exchange: Exposing oppression in corporate America
1792 Exchange: Exposing blacklisting in
corporate America

They’re coming for you next: A survey by the non-profit 1792 Exchange has found that almost half of a list of 1,000+ major corporations, from Google to Kroger, are very willing and eager to “cancel a contract or client, or boycott, divest, or deny services based on views or beliefs.”

Of these, 160 companies were found to be “high risk” for blacklisting. For example, its report [pdf] on high-risk Coca-Cola found the following:

Coca-Cola Co. has demonstrated a willingness to terminate relationships with organizations based on ideology and require unconstitutional diversity mandates from vendors and suppliers. It lacks policies to prevent viewpoint discrimination, while it denounced local legislative efforts to reform election security and protect the unborn. Coca-Cola will not give to faith-based charities but gives to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Based on its policies and past practices, Coca-Cola Company receives a “High Risk” rating.

Note that Pepsi was also considered “high-risk”, even though it was slightly less willing to blacklist. According to the survey’s report of Pepsi [pdf]:
» Read more

Cracks in Martian lava

Cracks in Martian lava
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on January 25, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It was taken not as part of any specific research project, but to fill a gap in MRO’s picture-taking schedule in order to maintain the camera’s temperature. When such pictures need to be taken, the camera team tries to find something of interest in the area to be shot. Sometimes the picture is boring. Sometimes fascinating. Today’s picture I think falls into the latter category.

This is a lava flood plain, as shown in the overview map below. The meandering ridges are likely what geologists call lava dikes, places where lava was extruded out through a fissure. This suggests that the flat flood lava was an older crust, and that there was hot molten lava below it that eventually pushed its way up through cracks in that crust.

This hypothesis however is not certain, as the meandering nature of the ridges does not correspond well with what one would expect from such crustal cracks.
» Read more

Webb finds another galaxy in early universe that should not exist

The uncertainty of science: Scientists using the Webb Space Telescope have identified another galaxy about 12 billion light years away and only about 1.7 billion years after the theorized Big Bang that is too rich in chemicals as well as too active in star formation to have had time to form.

SPT0418-SE is believed to have already hosted multiple generations of stars, despite its young age. Both of the galaxies have a mature metallicity — or large amounts of elements like carbon, oxygen and nitrogen that are heavier than hydrogen and helium — which is similar to the sun. However, our sun is 4.5 billion years old and inherited most of its metals from previous generations of stars that were eight billion years old, the researchers said.

In other words, this galaxy somehow obtained complex elements in only 1.7 billion years that in our galaxy took twelve billion years, something that defies all theories of galactic and stellar evolution. Either the Big Bang did not happen when it did, or all theories about the growth and development of galaxies are wrong.

One could reasonably argue that this particular observation might be mistaken, except that it is not the only one from Webb that shows similar data. Webb’s infrared data is challenging the fundamentals of all cosmology, developed by theorists over the past half century.

ISRO successfully de-orbits defunct satellite

Last orbit of MT1

ISRO announced today that it successfully de-orbited the defunct Earth observation MT1 satellite on March 7, 2023, bringing it down over the Pacific Ocean.

The map to the right shows the timing of the last two de-orbit burns during the satellite’s last orbit.

MT1’s orbit was high enough so that it would have remained in space for about 100 more years, with a lot of fuel that might have caused an explosion and the release of many pieces of space junk. ISRO managers decided to allocate the funds to use that fuel to de-orbit it, as a test for making this a routine part of any satellite end-of-mission.

Post-Artemis-1 report: heat shield ablated more than expected; power system issued unexpected commands; damage to launchpad

In a March 7, 2023 briefing, NASA officials provided an overall report of what happened during the first SLS launch, noting that there were some minor engineering issues but none that appeared to them significant.

The biggest issue of note was the Orion heat shield.

Howard Hu, Orion program manager at NASA, said that material on the heat shield had ablated differently than what engineers expected from ground tests and computer models. “We had more liberation of the charred material during reentry than we had expected,” he said. Engineers are just beginning detailed analysis of the heat shield to determine why it behaved differently than expected.

The amount ablated was well within safety margins, but engineers still do not understand why the material behaved differently than expected.

Engineers are also trying to understand why the power system of the Orion service module issued unplanned commands, several times opening what officials called a “latching current limiter.” This action caused no problems to the capsule’s operations, but it is concerning it occurred.

The launch also did more damage to the mobile launcher tower than expected.

According to NASA officials, none of these issues will delay the planned November 2024 launch date for the Artemis-2 mission, the first intended to carry humans.

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