Draft Minutes of Meeting with ESOC on August 13, 1997
Meeting time: 45 minutes
I sent these minutes (German text) to the ESOC and asked the meeting participants to authorize the text. Instead of the requested authorization, I got the following reply: „For reasons which we have explained during your visit on August 13, 1997, we are not in a position to comment on your draft minutes. Therefore, no release or comment from our part may be assumed."
ESOC (European Space Agency’s Operation Center, located in Darmstadt, Germany):
Mrs. Landeau-Constantin, Head of Public Relations Office
Mr. Laue, Head of Technical Staff Office
Mr. Martens, Technical Security Department
Mr. Smith, Head of Flight Operations Divison
Stoppt Cassini campaign:
Regina Hagen, Darmstädter Friedensforum
Dr. Martin Kalinowski, Nuclear Phycistist, Technical University Darmstadt
Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck, Friedens- und Begegnungsstätte Mutlangen
We had organized a press event at the ESOC entrance gate where newspaper, radio, and TV journalists got a chance to talk to us and take photos before the meeting with the ESOC representatives. We gave several interviews and were photographed with the banner „No Plutonium into Space" in front of the ESOC gate. A TV station filmed how we took lists with 10,000 signatures against Cassini from a suitcase - filed up on a long rope. They also filmed us walking into the ESOC gate with the suitcase which had „Stoppt Cassini" written on it.
As ESOC allowed only one journalist to attend the meeting but several wanted to join us, we decided to have the meeting without press representatives.
After that Mr. Martens from the ESOC Technical Security Department took us to a meeting room where the ESOC representatives were waiting for us.
At the beginning of the meeting, Wolfgang 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 by the Friedens- und Begegnungsstätte Mutlangen.
He explained our three demands to the ESA:
The ESOC representatives declared at the beginning of the meeting as well as several times in the course of the meeting „We are not the adequate address for your protests against the plutonium payload of Cassini. ESOC is merely a subordinate part of ESA. And even ESA is just NASA’s junior partner for this mission. Creating electricity with the RTGs is NASA’s responsibility. Also, we have trust in our cooperation partner as well as in RTG security."
They also said „But we are willing to act as postal service and send the signatures to ESA in Paris. Likewise, we will pass your reservations and the mentioned demands to Paris. We are, however, not authorized to discuss any scenario with you. Also, the demonstration you plan in front of the ESOC main entrance on October 4 are directed towards the wrong organization. You should direct your protests against NASA."
As the ESOC representatives took note of our considerations but were not prepared to discuss them with us, we were restricted to list those topics which we wanted ESA to comment on. It was not possible to have a real dialog.
We asked the following questions which were not answered:
Dr. Martin Kalinowski pointed out that scientists at the University of Technology in Darmstadt who are involved in deep space research projects started a (painful) discussion about their co-responsibility for those aspects of these missions which are not directly linked to their work. One of these aspects is any danger that might be caused by the energy sources of deep space probes.
The meeting participants from the Stoppt Cassini campaign had conflicting impressions as on one hand the ESOC completely denies responsibility for the mission’s risks. On the other hand at the end of the meeting one of the participants uttered an opinion which makes their identification with the Cassini/Huygens project quite obvious: „I hope that we can be proud of this mission’s success in a few years. It would be the first time that we’d manage to get a European interplanetary mission part up."
A specific point of critique was mentioned by Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck. He has repeated proof that ESA withholds critical issues in their statements. One example is the usage of plutonium in the RHUs in the European probe Huygens which has so far not been admitted by ESA although we explicitely asked for appropriate information.
At the end of the meeting Regina Hagen informed about the demonstration on October 4 and the rally in front of the main ESOC entrance in Darmstadt. She explained that she acts as organizer of the protest and applied for the legally required approval at the local authorities. She assured the ESOC representatives that there is nothing to fear from the rally and that non-violence is the guiding principle for planning the event. She asked the ESOC representatives to contact her in case any questions or rumors should arise. She ensured fair and open information about the event if required.
To close the meeting, the representatives of the Stoppt Cassini campaign explicitly thanked the ESOC representatives that they attended this meeting despite the difficult cirumstances.
The representatives of the Stoppt Cassini campaign are now eagerly awaiting any statement from the ESA headquarters in Paris.
Published online with permission of the author.