Rebuttal to a rebuttal of some of our objections to Cassini.

By Russell Hoffman, Jim Spellman, others...

First presented online October 1st, 1997

*** Some questions still left unanswered by the pro-nuclear Cassini side:

In Newsletter #48 I presented a list of questions I feel have been left unanswered by the pro-nuclear Cassini factions.

Jim Spellman Jr., President - California Space Development Council and Executive Director - NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter passed the list of questions around and got some answers together. He presented these to us, and this is my answer to those rebuttals of my comments.

This series originally was done through email, but it has grown so large and complicated that a switch to the more capable HTML format became necessary (it would have been posted eventually, anyway).

In the following document three sets of text appear.

The light text indicates my original comments each of which has been reproduced here.

The comments collected by Jim Spellman are presented in BOLD here. They have been indented for additional clarity and separation.

The rebuttal to Spellman's collection of comments appears in BOLD ITALICS and has been further indented.

At 02:23 AM 10/1/97 Jim Spellman wrote:

In a message dated 97-09-26 20:48:11 EDT, you write:

*** Some questions still left unanswered by the pro-nuclear Cassini side:


I fielded these questions out to individuals for their comment. The following are answers received to date.


Why did the EXPECTED PLUTONIUM RELEASE AMOUNT change from 33% to about 3% from June 1995 to June 1997 for an inadvertent flyby reentry, while at the same time NASA claims the RTGs are an incredibly reliable and stable and well researched technology and that RTGs have 12, 25, and 37 years of technological experience put into them? (the numbers are different depending on which page of NASA reports, or which spokesperson you get the number from.)

RTGs are reliable and stable. However, RTGs have never been in a swingby at the speed of the Cassini Earth swingby. A test and analysis program was initiated but not completed at the time of the FEIS, so conservative numbers were used. Testing and analysis were continued, and the FSEIS provides the results of the detailed testing program.

First of all, I find it shocking that NASA was comfortable with a 33% release. That is to say, the Record of Decision at the time was that NASA could proceed with the launch despite this awesome failure rate. Nowhere in the June 1995 EIS is any indication that 33% is an unacceptable value. How can that be?

As to the continued testing and analysis, which part was testing and which part was analysis? Because -- as I am sure the author knows as well as I do -- NASA has NOT TESTED the RTGs at 30,000 mph, or at 42,300 mph, ever. It is all theoretical and absolutely UNTESTED.

Furthermore the possible variance from 33% is +67% or -33%. Thus the maximum failure rate is roughly double the expected failure rate. The possible variance from 3% is +97% or -3%. Here, the maximum failure rate is about 32 times the expected failure rate. How sure is NASA that their "new" number -- 3% -- is accurate? In any event, it is just an average failure rate -- and not, once again, any sort of true "worst case" scenario.


Why does NASA say that the RTG's are built like a bank vault when the actual data (see #1, above) is quite different? Why won't NASA spokespeople simply quote NASA's own documentation rather than oversimplify to the point of absurdity?

The RTG Safety and the NASA/JPL fact sheets do not use the phrase 'bank vault.' What is provided are the materials and dimensions of the RTGs. The "bank vault" phrase might have been used in an interview. It is not what is normally used.

NASA has used that phrase and many similar ones repeatedly. It is a matter of public record. It is not that such phrases 'might have been used in an interview' as described. In fact, I would have to characterize that description as a false and misleading misrepresentation of NASA's false and misleading misrepresentations.

NASA spokespeople have repeatedly made such misleading statements to the public and to members of Congress. There is NO basis in fact for such a statement, yet they continue to make these ridiculous claims. If it's not true, why do they say it? Who is afraid of the truth, who is afraid the public cannot understand the truth, and who is afraid that the public will rightfully be afraid when they hear the truth?


Did NASA use the 1989 figures for space debris populations in Near Earth Orbit for the Environmental Impact Statements, which were based largely on mathematical modeling techniques, or did they switch to the far worse 1995 figures which were based on empirical evidence? If they switched, why did they quote the 1989 figure of 7000 tracked objects in their June 1997 SEIS?

The 1995 figures were used in the analysis, and in the Supplement to the Cassini EIS Supporting Studies Vol. 3. The FSEIS must not have updated the text, though the analysis was updated.

Does the author mean the June 1997 GPHS-RTG FSAR? If so, what page, if not, what exact document? And what is the specific quote? Beverly Cook, spokesperson for DOE, recently stated that she has over two feet of documentation on the safety of Cassini's RTGs. (NASA has only sent me about one foot of Cassini RTG documentation. Am I missing something?) Please be a bit more specific when claiming to quote obscure NASA documentation...

The FSEIS was written in 1997 and the segments I referred to where the 7000 figure was used (pages E-48 and E-50) were published in the June 1997 SEIS in response to my comments which I submitted to NASA in April, 1997. So the 7000 figure has to have been produced in mid-1997, and yet it references indisputably the 1989 figure.

By the way, to see the difference between the kind of "testing and analysis" NASA has done on the RTGs versus REAL testing, one need look no further than at a comparison of the 1989 and 1995 Space Debris reports.

In Newsletter #24 I did an extensive comparison of these two reports.

The numeric differences were as follows:

Report year: 1989 ---- 1995
10 cm or greater: 7000 ---- 8000
1 to 10 cm: 17,500 ---- 110,000
.01-1 cm: 3,524,500 ---- 35,117,000
Total kg: 3,000,000 ---- 2,000,000

Source: Table 2 of each report.

The differences between the 1989 figures and the 1995 figures were largely the result of NASA leaving something called a Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) in space for nearly six years, then hauling it back to Earth and hand-counting the impact craters. There were about 32,000 of them that were visible to the unaided eye, the largest was 0.5 centimeters in diameter, which was probably made by an object so small as to be barely visible.

Note that the really important increase is not the 7000 figure at all, or the fact that it became 8000 in the next report. Those numbers just prove which report NASA used. But in truth, even to talk about either of those numbers in this context is in fact an obfuscation of the facts! The value -- 7000 or 8000 -- is merely the objects which are large enough to be tracked (somewhat inaccurately) with current technology. The rest are utterly invisible. It's a crap shoot.

The important figures are the second and third ones, because objects far smaller than 10 cm in diameter can cause structural damage to Cassini due to the kinetic energy available at the relative speeds these objects travel at.

For objects 1 cm or larger, notice the figure increased from an ESTIMATED 17,500 to a TESTED 110,000! For objects from .01 cm to 1 cm the figures changed by about an order of magnitude, from 3,524,500 to 35,117,000.

The 1995 Interagency Report on Space Debris states that objects of .1 cm or larger are capable of causing "structural damage" to a satellite (page 8). For Cassini, traveling about twice as fast as Earth-orbiting satellites, one can reasonably suppose that objects even smaller than .1 cm can destroy the spacecraft. That is a very small object!


Even though EPA specifically noted that NASA miscalculates the "worst case" scenario by averaging many accident scenarios together (June 1997 SEIS, page E-14), why does NASA still continue to refuse to publish the true potential effects of a worst case scenario? What's the problem with honestly saying what they are dealing with?

Worst case risk was presented. An understanding was reached with EPA on this.

Show the public the letter to that effect from EPA and all associated documents! Give us the NAME of the EPA official who did this. And what exactly is an "understanding" with EPA anyway? Such an "understanding" does not change the facts -- that NASA averages across many accident scenarios before presenting health statistics. That NASA refuses to consider a full release above a major metropolis here or abroad. Or fallout in a poor or war-torn country. Or in a poor area of America, for that matter, where we already know we do not clean up our messes, nuclear or otherwise (it is called eco-racism).


Why does NASA insist that they can achieve a humanly impossible level of safety when previous NASA accident rates prove unequivocally that such rates are impossible? Specifically, why does NASA dishonor the many good NASA scientists of the past who, somewhere and somehow, made mistakes (which is a human thing to do and no big deal)? In other words, if NASA is now capable of achieving an unprecedented level of safety, then obviously the current NASA scientists are better than the previous ones, because the previous ones were NOT able to achieve the near-perfect levels of safety NASA now claims they can achieve. In what way (genetic engineering perhaps?) are current NASA scientists better than those that came before?

RTGs are designed to withstand accidents. Mistakes are made, that is why such things as fault protection, trajectory biasing, and the ceramic form of the plutonium are incorporated into the mission.

NASA always tries to fly a successful mission. They use inspections, fault tolerant designs, dynamic attitude and directional control, and every other technique they can think of to fly a successful mission, every mission. Yet still they fail sometimes. That was my whole point, and can you deny it?

Referring specifically to the "ceramic form of the plutonium", aside from the fact that an unknown amount (33%, 3%?) might be incinerated in a "normal" reentry accident, also any collision with any piece of space debris bigger than about the size of a pinhead (or perhaps even smaller than that) would destroy the containment system if that is where the impact occurred. These effects can be cumulative, in other words, an Earth-impacting space probe can ALSO be struck with space debris as it falls to Earth, which is the sort of reason why NASA is obliged to indicate the effects of a FULL release ANYWHERE on the planet. Such an event is possible and we risk it merely for haste, not for progress.

The RTG containment technology is clearly designed to release it's plutonium at high altitude or not at all, unless it lands or rock or some other hard surface. High altitude releases are EXPECTED in both the 1995 and the 1997 reports, as discussed above. The effect of vaporization at high altitude is multifaceted. Large particles will fall to Earth in the approximate area where the vaporization takes place, presenting a health hazard as they fall and afterwards as they enter the food chain. Smaller particles will drift more with the wind and take longer to descend to the surface of the Earth, and are more easily stirred up again after first alighting upon our once fair garden's floor. The drifting particles will come down in concentrated areas due to rainfall and due as well to the complex and largely unpredictable dynamics of atmospheric winds, and not to mention the effects of gravity, which I mention because NSS documents seem to forget about it (more on that in a future document).

But perhaps the most important effect of a high altitude release is that it will be impossible to prove who died from what, whether it was Cassini or SNAP-9A or weapons testing or a thousand other things, because the deaths will be spread all around the globe, and modern science cannot tell you which little microparticle came from where, or even if that is what caused a cancer or leukemia in the first place! Yet NASA claims it knows so much!

Essentially nowhere will NASA's nice little average dispersal be the ACTUAL dispersal. Everywhere will have either more, or less, but for all intents and purposes, nowhere will the dispersal actually be "average." Therefore, the actual exposures will not be "average" at all either.


If NASA is so sure that they know what is good for the worldwide population of humans, and that 72+ pounds of vaporized plutonium won't hurt us, how come neither NASA nor anyone else has been able to build a sustainable closed human environment on Earth (Biosphere), on the Moon, or in orbit somewhere? What is the proof that NASA understands environmental hazards?

No responses received at the current time. I'm expanding the query.

As to Biosphere, you have to talk to the folks at Oracle, AZ, or the University of Pittsburg that's now in charge. As to the Moon, ask Congress why we have't been back since Dec. '72. As to "in orbit somewhere" let's see what happens after first element of ISS is launched next year.

ISS is not going to be a self-sustained environment. We have NO IDEA how to build a self-sustainable environment for long duration missions. You could not possibly expect to fly a 5 year or 20 year mission right now, and not just because you cannot get enough fuel. The main reason is because we are not ready to leave this planet for that long. We need our blue jewel's resources. Why? We don't fully know why. What we do know is that we don't know how to live away from this world! So how can you claim to know how much abuse THIS planet can take?

That is why I liked the Lewis satellite. Its purpose was to study THIS environment, the one we most need to learn about, and quickly before we no longer are around to ponder the question of how life formed.

Far more important right now is, how will life end? Or rather, how can we make the most use of the available souls and supplies on board "Spaceship Earth" to have a better educated, less violent and thriving society without war, famine, pestilence or greed, without lies and without political maneuvering over scientific issues? How can we build a society based on making the most of the brainpower on board this ship to solve the problems we face? About the only problem Spaceship Earth does not face that an offworld traveling outpost would face is -- we don't need navigators. But we sure need to solve some problems here on Earth if THIS spaceship is going to get anywhere exciting!

NASA's guiding mission is to help mankind gain knowledge. Mankind needs help. Our world is polluted and choking. People are starving, sickening, and dying. We know one very important thing about every other planet in our solar system: None are at all hospitable. Earth is, but we're losing it as well. NASA needs to show more concern for the biosphere.

Cassini will have about 270 billion potential lethal doses of plutonium 238 on board if you spread them all out and count them all up, give or take at most perhaps an order of magnitude either way, depending on who you get a guesstimate from.

Such an amount of plutonium 238, spread in a closed biosphere about 25000 miles in circumference with nearly 6 billion people on it, as Cassini can do, would be a disaster, and should not be risked. The fact that NASA cannot visualize the potential size of the disaster is proof enough that NASA should not be allowed to proceed. Perhaps if NASA could bring itself to express the true potential of a Cassini accident, perhaps then people could believe that NASA knew what it was doing when they say it's safe anyway. But when NASA cannot even admit to the possibility, let alone actually publish a detailed description of what a true worst-case scenario would mean to the health of the planet, how can we trust NASA to make a reasonable cost/benefit analysis?

It is really shocking that NASA doesn't seem to care about such a terrific global pollution, and doesn't seem to understand the nature of its potential effect on our closed ecosystem, because after all, it was they who first showed us the whole system in one heavenly view.


Dr. Otto Raabe, President of the Health Physics Society, who has admitted that vaporized plutonium is its most dangerous form, consistently fails to discuss what the effects of 72+ pounds of plutonium 238 vaporized above a major population center would be. Instead he turns to NASA assurances that the plutonium will NOT be released, or that it will be released so high above the atmosphere that in his opinion no one will get a significant dose.

But he will not discuss what a significant dose might be, for those of us who question NASA's assurances about how much will be released. Why not? It is clear that Dr. Raabe is not an expert in RTG plutonium containment systems; he is an accredited expert on plutonium dangers. Why won't he simply tell us what he thinks the effects of plutonium dispersal could be? He need not fall back on ANY NASA STATEMENT to offer a professional opinion about the hazards of plutonium. How big a dose of plutonium 238 would Dr. Raabe be willing to give everyone on the planet and still believe in his heart that no one will be harmed? How big a dose does he think it would take, of vaporized plutonium, to cause cancer in 50% of the people who inhale that dose? Dr. Raabe should let the opposition argue whether NASA can contain the plutonium, and should offer a professional opinion on what the effects of a release might be, not whether or not there will be a release.

Dr. Raabe has a very good understanding of the plutonium. He has, in fact, determined what the result would be if ALL the plutonium would be released, and still does not think the consequences would be greater than those in the FSEIS.

So let him express the numbers as I have requested. His example of a full release assumes an absurd absolutely even worldwide dispersal (or at least a full Northern Hemisphere dispersal). While not mathematically impossible, it is highly illogical, and incredibly unlikely. And it's not his problem anyway! His area of expertise, what you say he has a good understanding of, is the hazards of plutonium to the human body, as, for inhalation or ingestion. So, what are his numbers?

And lastly note that Dr. Raabe's professional opinion that an even dispersal would be harmless is disputed by Dr. John Gofman, Dr. Horst Poehler, Dr. Michio Kaku and others, including Dr. Karl Z. Morgan, founder of the field of Health Physics.


According to NASA how much of the mission would actually have to be left behind if the mission had been designed from the start as a solar/fuel cell mission instead of an RTG mission?

The entire mission would have to be redesigned due to turning, field of vision, etc. In addition, the latest solar arrays that have been manufactured for spacecraft are providing only about 60% of the efficiency that was projected for an all solar Cassini.

Of course it would need to be redesigned. But what if NASA had had the good sense to design it properly from the start? Then they would not be in this situation. Ignorance is no excuse. NASA should have known that what they were doing was wrong. It was wrong for Galileo as the Rockey report proved. It's even more wrong for Cassini. And besides that you haven't answered the question. But in a July 1986 memorandum obtained by Karl Grossman titled "Rough Estimates of Power Subsystem Schedule" JPL indicated that a solar array conversion for Galileo could have been accomplished in just "2-3 years" (The Wrong Stuff by Karl Grossman, page 92). NASA had every opportunity to see the writing on the wall. But after having blinded themselves to the dangers, they then blinded themselves to the alternatives.

NASA's loss is their own fault. Scientists could have spoken up from within and objected to their experiments being powered with the absurd RTG solution but they either chose not to or perhaps did speak, but were not listened to.


Historically, how much money has NASA/DoE/DoD invested in solar deep space mission research versus the ENTIRE cost of the nuclear 'solution', including all phases of the nuclear fuel cycle?

No responses received at the present time. I'm expanding the query.

Please do. We have many more financial questions if you find a good source.


How many Lewis-type Earth environmental research satellites could NASA have flown for ONE Cassini type mission?

One response received: "Are you referring to the Lewis spacecraft that failed?"

Yes. I liked that project. I expect occasional failures. Normally they don't bother me...

Assuming you are, this is an "apples and oranges" comparison. Lewis was (supposed to be) a low-Earth orbiting satellite on a small launch vehicle (LMLV-1) vs. Cassini being one of the last "Big Satellites" planned and budgeted nearly ten years ago (before the "Faster, Cheaper, Better" mantra was incited), and launched on a heavy lift booster (Titan 4B/Centaur) on a deep space trajectory.

The point is that money -- which is always the ultimate limiting factor in all decisions, isn't it? -- can go towards many different valuable projects each with lots of good science return. Some are less risky than others from a health point of view, some are less risky than others from a mission completion point of view. In light of the risks and in light of the alternatives which NASA could have used or which NASA could have planned to use in a slightly later mission, it is absolutely baffling as to why we are all here, today, arguing about this. NASA should not have put itself in the position of having to justify such colossal stupidity. They could have avoided it simply by not turning to such an absurd solution for what amounts to about half a modern electric hair dryer's power output.


Since it appears unequivocal at this point that a Jupiter mission, if initiated today, could be done with a solar alternative to the RTG solution that was actually used, what's the rush? In 10 years surely a solar solution would also be available for missions as far as Saturn.

One response: "This looks to be a rephrasing of an earlier question (#8) -- and is more of an editorial with no hard data to support the claim.

The hard data starts with the 1981 Rockey report, misused by NASA in the 1995 Cassini EIS. It's what's known as a smoking gun in the newspaper "biz". You can look at it at the following URL, thanks to Karl Grossman having pried it out of NASA a few months after Galileo launched:

In 1994, ESA, NASA's Cassini partner, announced a breakthrough in development of solar technology for deep-space applications. Within five years, ESA scientist Carla Signorini told Florida Today in 1995, high-efficiency solar cells could be ready for deep space.

Signorini's optimism turned out to be premature, however. Studies by NASA and ESA have found that to provide Cassini's instruments with power from the sun, the solar arrays would have to be large -- about as large as tennis courts. Cassini would never even get off the ground. "Our desire is not to fly nuclear power sources just because they're there," states Richard Spehalski, program manager for Cassini at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Our desire is to get the maximum amount of scientific information with the available resources ... We haven't found a way to do that with solar."

NASA has not found a way to do it safely with nuclear. Yet we can all see clearly that a safe solar solution for the Galileo mission would exist today, so that mission could have waited just a little and been flown safely. ESA is now supplying solar cells for the European Rosetta deep space mission, which will go out past Jupiter.

At least a partial Cassini mission could have been flown today had it been designed as a solar mission from the start. A full mission could be flown soon, if not now, considering all the progress being made both in solar technology, and in reducing the power requirements of the science experiments themselves, an inevitable accomplishment given today's technological progress. (In part from work done at NASA, of course. I expect that work to continue.)

Considering how much money COULD have been put into Concentrated Solar Arrays, it is a shame that it was instead foolishly dumped into the nuclear dead end. Hence we have to rely on the European Space Agency for ANY solar solutions! If there is a more clear proof of America being, just as with Sputnik 40 years ago, behind other countries in the vital technologies of the day, I do not know it. WHY is America not the world leader in solar technology?


Why was the Rockey et al JPL 1981 Concentrated Solar Array report misused in the June 1995 EIS for the Cassini mission?

It was not. The conclusions of the entire report and its follow-up were used, not just the introduction which is the only part ever quoted by the Cassini opponents.

The commentors accusations are utterly unfounded. Or in plain English: It was too. In point of fact, we, not NASA, have presented the whole original document for public view and, for illustrating how NASA abused the Rockey report in the June 1995 EIS, we use ALL of NASA's quotes from it. The quotes NASA used as "proof" of the non-viability of a solar option were, in fact, misquoted. Looking at the WHOLE document, which you can do because WE (NOT NASA) have posted it online, clearly indicates a completely different conclusion from the one you get from reading only NASA's June 1995 EIS Rockey quotes.

Whoever wrote this comment needs to go back to NASA's books and see for themselves what NASA did. This is discussed in depth in section 2-12(e) of my rebuttal to NASA's rebuttal of my comments on the DSEIS, at this URL:

I still am hoping to get a Next-Day Air package from NASA sometime before launch, rebutting that document... and section 2-12(e) in particular. If they have answers, let's hear them.

Other Observations (quoting you). . .

I believe that my own fight is to educate the public. If the public understands what NASA has risked, and for what gain and against what alternatives, I do not believe the public would buy into this folly. . .The people do not want this monstrosity now that they know about it.

600,000 signatures from the public that are going on Cassini would probably argue that point with you. . .

Of all the nerve! If you were to somehow go back to those who placed their signatures upon the CD-ROM you refer to, which was completed last summer, and ask those people how many of them even knew there was ANY plutonium on board Cassini when they were offered a chance to sign on, I doubt 1% would say they knew. Because NASA certainly didn't tell them. NSS didn't tell them. The Planetary Society didn't tell them. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX and NPR all neglected to mention it but I bet every one of them did a story specifically about the signature CD-ROM for Cassini at some point in the past few years.

If you then asked those who knew that plutonium would be aboard Cassini, what type of plutonium it would be, I bet not 1% of those who knew there was ANY plutonium on board, knew it was Pu 238 not Pu 239, or could describe the important differences. At best they might be able to tell you it's "non-weapons grade plutonium" because NASA has repeatedly stated this, while the proper answer is "Pu 238 releases about 280 times more alpha decay particles (for equal units of mass and equal periods of time) than Pu 239, making it about 280 times more capable of causing a cancer or other health effect when inhaled or ingested."

And of those 60 people who would be left, out of your 600,000, of the 60 or whatever who knew all those hidden facts (and were still willing to sign on, of course!), I wonder how many of them also were aware (as Louis Friedman was not, for example, but he WAS surely one of those 60) of the stature and respect, let alone the names, of the scientists who oppose this madness on PURELY SCIENTIFIC GROUNDS, such as Dr. John W. Gofman, whose awesome biography is given in newsletters #24 and #25:

No no, Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society and a vocal proponent of the nuclear space program, thought it was just "a small group of activists" who oppose Cassini. He STILL (last I checked the document, a few weeks ago) does not have the courtesy or common sense -- at the very least -- to describe the opposition properly, that is, as "a highly respected group of scientists."

Every weak argument his organization has presented for Cassini is further weakened by his refusal to admit that respected scientists oppose Cassini on scientific principal.

What did these signators you claim are on your side know of all this, yet you would claim they are an informed group who support NASA's latest folly? If there are masses of informed supporters, or even masses of uninformed supporters, they hardly showed up last Sunday to support their cause, did they?

But so what? It's not about politics. It's about science. NASA science is incomplete and NASA makes unfair and dangerous assertions about things NASA actually knows little or nothing about.

NASA needs to be called to testify before Congressional Hearings, giving sworn testimony, and explain what their agenda is for using RTGs, and why they are unable to wait for a solar option, and why they are suddenly so sure they need to launch as soon as possible, even though all the launch window data they printed up until they realized they have a real fight on their hands some time over the summer, says they would get a satisfactory science return through 1999. So surely we can delay long enough to hold hearings, can we not? There is still time! Even if the hearings started October 6th, or October 13th, or any day before launch, there is STILL TIME! The first launch date is not a "must launch date" at all, it is a first launch opportunity, that's all! So launch after -- and if -- honest hearings produce an honest groundswell of public support! But if NASA launches now, it will be in the face of widespread worldwide open pubic displeasure.


I call for Congressional Hearings, and so should NASA, and so should everyone on both sides of the debate.

As near as I can tell, this thing has been hashed out already when the project was first seeking congressional approval. It's using technology (or recent upgrades of same) that were successfully used and proven on Voyager ('77), Galileo ('89) and Ulysses ('90). Delaying the launch for more talking heads on CSPAN will cost $$$.

If your idea of justice equates to "talking heads on CSPAN" I cannot help you.

The so-called "proven" technology has a sordid history of lies and deceit as outlined by Karl Grossman and myself and countless others. NASA successes are all mixed with failures. The failure rate is far higher than we can permit for plutonium launches such as Cassini. NASA scientists are not superhuman, and should stop pretending they are. When they can admit that about themselves, the world may once again decide to trust their judgement without so much oversight. But looking back, historically, every decade so far, something serious has gone wrong for the U.S. Space Program. In the 40's it was the V2 rockets for which we had no equal. In the 50's it was Sputnik. In the 60's it was a deadly fire. In the 70's it was Apollo 13. In the 80's it was Challenger. As they say in the brokerage business, past performance does not guarantee future returns, but the trend is nevertheless disturbing. In the 90's, perhaps NASA will get lucky, but perhaps not. (Delta II and Titan IV launch vehicle explosions and Lewis satellites and so on notwithstanding; as I write this we have NOT seen a major U.S. Space failure in the 1990's.)

And anyway, if we continue plutonium launches, sooner or later the pellets of poison are going to be dispersed. It is inevitable. If not Cassini, another probe. There is no known or anticipated, or even properly postulated technological solution to this problem. The Space Debris aspect alone makes it a crap-shoot. And for what? There is a very simple, elegant and logical solution and NASA could have chosen it. That they did not do so is regrettable, but is not a reason to let them proceed with this foolish launch.

By the way, in ten years, the Earth Orbital Debris problem will probably be at least ten times worse than it is right now. I challenge ANYONE to go on record denying that!

I've asked you this question before, and never got a response from you: Who do you propose will pay for this? You? Do you think the American taxpayer would want to shell out more money for more talking heads, perceived risks or not?

Considering the potential costs of cleanup, considering also the costs to our democracy of proceeding in the face of unresolved lies and misstatements, the cost of stopping for full hearings would be minuscule in comparison. NASA does not want to avoid this fight because they are afraid of the cost of hearings. Not at all. NASA wishes to avoid this fight because their facts are weak and would not be able to survive such public scrutiny.


Russell Hoffman

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