Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 09:59:24 -0800
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Cassini/Huygens Mission was lousy gamble, not a "Best Bet"!

(Note to readers:  The North County (CA) Times has apparently chosen not to publish this letter. -- rdh )

To: "Editor, NC Times" <>
North County Times
November 15th, 2004
Re: "Today's Best Bets" (Page 2, North County Times, November 15th, 2004)

To The Editor:

I think it's extremely poor journalism that you would publish (under "Today's Best Bets") that NASA/JPL "Solar System Ambassador" Jay Levine will be showing pictures in Oceanside today from the Cassini / Huygens space mission, without ALSO at least mentioning that Cassini was a disgusting piece of filth which NASA should never have launched.  Levine should be apologizing for, not promoting, that mission.

Cassini's 72.3 pounds of plutonium dioxide (mostly Pu-238, with about 15% Pu-239, for a total of about 406,000 Curies of plutonium) was the most ever launched at one time.  There were world-wide protests.  (Readers can verify this by typing "plutonium, Cassini, 72.3 pounds" or anything similar into any good search engine.)  But you can be sure this "Ambassador" will either ignore Cassini's plutonium or, if challenged, he will claim the protesters didn't understand the safety precautions NASA took to ensure the success of the launch.

However, it will be a LIE if he says anything like that!  In fact, the protesters studied ALL the available documentation carefully -- including researching the effects of so-called "low-level radiation" on large populations.  The protesters interviewed numerous scientists on both sides of the debate and, through this research and investigation, they found the NASA documentation to be lacking in veracity and, where it was in some sense truthful, it still didn't add up to a reasonable assessment of the true dangers -- instead, it added up to a hoax on the American people through carefully-worded technobabble, whenever NASA wasn't using assumptions based on thin air.

For example, in a gravitational flyby reentry accident (Cassini did a "flyby" of Earth at 43,000 miles per hour just 400 or so miles above our atmosphere), fully 1/3 of the plutonium payload was expected to be released, much of it as respirable particles, according to NASA's original (1995) "Environmental Impact Statement" on the mission.  The protesters were actually able to successfully use that number to alert the world to the dangers of the mission, because that's a lot of plutonium.  But in the "Final" (1997) EIS, NASA changed the number to only about 1% released -- how did they do that?

A very careful analysis of more than half a foot of bookshelf space of documentation, sent to this author by NASA and its subcontractors upon written request with a copy to a Congressperson, revealed that for the "Final" EIS, NASA decided the craft would tumble in a very specific way, and therefore, all three Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) on board Cassini, each with 23.8 pounds of plutonium, would break off from the disintegrating space probe safely, then break apart into individual General Purpose Heat Source modules (GPHSs, 18 per RTG), and NONE of the 54 individual GPHSs would bust apart from any reentry effects.  They had previously assumed at least one of the RTGs would get hung up in the other debris and be smashed pretty much to smithereens, and several GPHSs might break apart by, for example, smashing into each other or into other debris from the probe.  All these scenarios were eliminated in the "Final" EIS.  It's so easy to lie with statistics, and NASA is exquisitely good at it!

I'm sure Columbia's last mission had a "Final" EIS which gave the Green Light to that mission, as well.  It was obviously wrong about something.  Cassini's success was lucky, but NASA claimed it would have only a 1 on one million chance of failure.  THAT was the biggest lie of all!  This is why nuclear missions must be stopped -- failures WILL happen and plutonium WILL be released!  (Columbia's last mission might have included secret radioactive contents, but none have been admitted to by any public official except one Texas sheriff, shortly after the accident.)

There are also about 130 "RHU's" on board Cassini/Huygens, which are small Radioactive Heater Units (RHUs were also used on the more recently launched Mars probes).  Try as they might, NASA could not come up with ANY Cassini/Huygens reentry scenarios where ANY of the RHUs would "survive" reentry.

If Mr. Levine covers the topic of Cassini's plutonium at all, he will undoubtedly say that Pu-238 is not "weapons grade" plutonium as if, therefore, it is safe.  But saying it's not "weapons grade" excludes weapons known as "dirty bombs", of which a bomb made from captured Pu-238 would be ideal, from the terrorist's point of view.  In fact, it would be 280 times BETTER than one made from Pu-239!  Per microgram, Pu-238 is about 280 times more lethal than so-called "weapons-grade" plutonium (Pu-239), when vaporized into the atmosphere as Cassini could have done, or as a terrorist could do with the same material.  To be fair, I should note that Pu-238 is dangerous for about 1/280th as long as Pu-239, because Pu-238's half-life is about 1/280th as long (about 88 years versus about 24,000 years).  It normally takes about 20 half-lives for a substance to completely decay, so for Pu-238 that's about 20 human lifespans and about 60 to 80 reproductive human generations.

As a dust cloud of plutonium drifts down through the atmosphere following a reentry accident and vaporization (imagine the Columbia accident but with 72.3 pounds of plutonium on board, and streaking in about 10 times FASTER), billions of people -- most of the population of the earth -- would breath the radioactive vapors.  Plutonium gathers in men's testes, in the lungs, and many other organs of the human body.  It takes years to settle out of the skies the first time, and then a portion of it bioaccumulates through plant and animal food chains, and another portion of it revaporizes into the atmosphere in the normal cycle of the oceans which vaporize in the sun, which then falls as rain.  Much of the plutonium would recycle through the biosphere for its whole radioactive life (and then the radioactive daughter products would do the same).  The plutonium (and its daughter products) would be here killing people for a long, long time.

NASA risks global irradiation of the population not only when it launched Cassini, but they risk it on dozens of other missions, too.

This MUST be STOPPED, not permitted or -- as you have done by publishing this biased announcement -- encouraged!  No Nukes in Space!

Although Cassini did not fail at launch, or during the flyby, launching it was a brazen thing for NASA to do, not a brave thing, and certainly not scientifically vital (the same scientific return could have been obtained with solar and/or fuel cell power and heat sources).  Columbia showed NASA for the cowboys that they are.  Dangerously pigheaded, they have NEVER given the opposition fair say within their own community and have crushed fair debate on these issues for years.  It is clear from your promotional piece, that tonight's presentation will be biased and unfair -- a shameless promotion of a shameful thing.

NASA told 1000 lies to get Cassini launched.   No good science can ever come of something based on so many lies.  Pretty pictures?  Don't publish them.  NASA/JPL's "Solar System Ambassador" coming to town?  Here's what he deserves: Grill him with questions about NASA"s current nuclear plans, like "Prometheus."  How many Curies will it launch with?  How many will it have two minutes, or two years, after turning on the reactor?  How close to earth will it be started?  What type of fuel source will be used to launch it from Earth?  When is the first launch expected?  What is the budget?  Who is supplying the radioactive parts?  Why is it necessary?  Who needs to know about Pluto and the outer planets so badly that we couldn't wait for fuel cell options, which would work just as well or at least, well enough?

Ask him if the push for radioactive "civilian" missions is really just a cover for a military nuclearization of space.  Go ahead, just ask him, okay?

But no.  Instead of this, you've given NASA/JPL and their "Ambassador" a free pass to promote NASA's nuclear agenda and their pack of lies!

I request this be published as an OP-ED, since it's obviously too long for your letters section, with its pathetic 200-word limit.  (You can blame the length of this document on the intricacies of NASA's deceit -- the complex verbiage with which they fool even their most ardent supporters (of whom I used to be one).)


Russell Hoffman
Former NASA supporter,
Concerned Citizen,
Editor, STOP CASSINI newsletter,
Carlsbad, CA