Minutes of Meeting with the BMB+F on August 14, 1997
Meeting time: 2 hours
BMB+F (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie, [Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research, and Technology):
Herr Appelhans, BMB+F Press Officer
Dr. Blome, DLR Scientist [Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. = German Aerospace Research Establishment] (currently BMB+F)
Dr. Döllinger, BMB+F Manager of the Subdivision for Aeronautics, Traffic, Marine Technology
Dr. Nagel, BMB+F Manager of the Aerospace Section
Stoppt Cassini campaign:
Regina Hagen, Darmstädter Friedensforum
Susanne Ochse, Stoppt Cassini campaign, Bonn
Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck, Friedens- und Begegnungsstätte Mutlangen
At the beginning of the meeting, Wolfang Schlupp-Hauck handed over copied lists with 10,000 signatures against Cassini. He briefly explained the history of the anti-Cassini activities within the German peace movement, especially at the Friedens- und Begegnungsstätte Mutlangen.
He explained our three demands to the Federal Government:
The meeting atmosphere was very open, lively, and cooperative.
First, Dr. Döllinger gave us information about the BMB+F. Currently, the yearly aerospace budget of the ministry amounts to appr. DM 1.4 billion [» $ 800 million]. Roughly DM 1 billion is reserved for ESA purposes. The rest of the budget is spent directly.
In the field of aerospace research, the BMB+F has a focus on science (researching Jupiter and Saturn), public requirements and usage, and satellite telecommunication.
Dr. Döllinger explained that in Germany appr. 5,000 people were employed by companies that deal with space technology; most of them worked for DASA [Daimler-Benz Aerospace]. Contrary to public opinion, spin-off effects from space technology for industry or daily life were rather small. As a rule, aerospace should be considered as a publicly subsidized business. The German and European aerospace industry were exposed to severe competitive pressure by US companies. The future aerospace markets were definitely in the field of commercial usage.
We then talked about the information policy and responsibility of ESOC [European Space Agency’s Operation Center in Darmstadt, Germany]. Dr. Döllinger had read the article of the daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau (dated August 14, 1997) that covered our ESOC visit the day before. He regretted that ESOC did not get into discussion with us and was not prepared to take their share of the responsibility for possible risks of the Cassini mission. Dr. Döllinger assertained that ESOC’s information policity would be made a topic during a meeting with the ESA chairman.
As the BMB+F representatives were well informed about our critique of the Cassini mission, we could start with the discussion without further explanations.
All BMB+F representatives clearly stated that they knew about the possible mission risks. Dr. Döllinger said there was a risk with the Cassini mission. The question was merely whether the risk was justifiable. The BMB+F considers the accident risk to be so low that the scientific results justify the mission.
Dr. Blome mentioned that all NASA studies and analyses for the Cassini mission and the possible risks were made public, which was not the case for the critiques by the Cassini opponents. We did not share this opinion. When we prepared for this meeting, we contacted Dr. Sternglass. He confirmed that his critique had always referred to his estimates about low-level radiation and that he had sent a document to NASA which he had published several years ago. Dr. Michio Kaku’s scientific critique of NASA’s Environmental Impact Statement in which he concludes that NASA has systematically and unreasonably underestimated the risks has also been made available to the public. We had sent this document to the ministry by fax prior to the meeting. Dr. Blome admitted that Dr. Kaku’s document was methodically founded, but he complained that Dr. Kaku - as other Cassini opponents - has not done any calculations of his own. We pointed out that the NASA studies are written by well-paid scientists whereas the Cassini opponent s are not paid for their commitment and do most of their work during non-working time.
The ministry’s „Technical Statement" for Cassini claimed that launching Cassini in 2001 is not feasable because the scientific results would be considerably reduced. However, the documents avaiable to us did not specify the kind of impairment caused by a later launch.
Next, we talked about the Federal Government’s responsibility in case of an accident and the liability for space missions.
According to the ministry the DARA (Deutsche Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten [= German Space Agency]) had tried to become a member of the Russian investigation commission. Dr. Döllinger and his colleagues are confident that the Russian information policy will eventually adapt to the information climate of NASA and ESA.
In addition, after the Mars-96 crash the German embassy had cooperated with the Chilean and Bolivian authorities and had offered help.
Dr. Döllinger promised that we will receive the investigation report when it is completed.
Next, we talked about the German participation in future plutonium missions. We presented a list compiled by the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice which lists 11 future space missions with plutonium payloads. We asked about participation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the ESA, resp., in these missions and whether they plan to „put a brake" on these missions in advance. To the knowledge of the ministry, ESA did not participate in any of these 11 missions.
Currently, German participation was limited to the following projects: the space station ALPHA, Ariane, the Rossetta mission to the comet Wirtanen, and the cluster missions.
We asked whether the government would make a statement that they would not support any future space missions where nuclear material was used. Dr. Döllinger said that energy supply would of course be an issue for future space missions. He stressed that the BMB+F was firmly made aware of this problem by the protests of the Cassini opponents. Energy supply would be a major decision criterion for future participation in space missions.
[The comments in square brackets were included during translation to help non-German readers understand the context.]
Published online with permission of the author.