STOP CASSINI Newsletter #20 -- June 29th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #20 - Correspondence with James Spellman Jr.


In this newsletter we publish our response to a recent email from James Spellman, President - California Space Development Council and Executive Director - NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter. We also publish his original email to us.

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER

**** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #20 June 29th, 1997 ****
Today's subject:

* A letter from James Spellman Jr.

****** VOLUME #20 June 29th, 1997 ******

By Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman

Cassini correspondence

BEGINNING OF LETTER TO JAMES SPELLMAN JR. (letter from him shown below)


Thanks for your email. I don't suppose it will help, but if you really want more light than heat, you might want to visit our web site where there's plenty of both -- and much more light, especially, than in one newsletter, which can only hold so much.

You wrote:
Please pay special note once again to the Editorial by Dr. Louis D. Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society (a "sister" space advocacy organization) -- particularly with the odds of "disaster" against the realities of them actually occuring.

I DID pay special note to his editorial -- see newsletter #18, where his comments to us (and our answers) are printed. It's online -- here:

As to the selective editing you complain about regarding past nuclear missions, we talk about those past NASA failures rather often -- for the latest example, in newsletter #19 which went out recently. It talked about the SNAP-27 onboard Apollo, the SNAP-9A NASA would rather forget, and the SNAP-19B2 that was aboard the NIMBUS-B-1 satellite that blew up over the Pacific.

You wrote:
Contrary to the false belief that not enough adequate testing or safety reports on the RTG issue have been investigated, I'll be faxing you a separate list (minimum of four pages) of reports and reviews by various agencies for your perusal.

I haven't received your fax yet, but Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Division just sent me about 8 inches of documentation on the RTGs, GPHSs and GISs, which arrived today, as did your email. (It is basically preliminary documentation for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Cassini mission.)

Sure enough, there are clearly a lot of test results, (they have some nice photos of GISs that broke apart in testing...) and some of the numbers have changed significantly since the last EIS on the Cassini mission -- many of the numbers (such as percentage that will be incinerated at high altitude if a flyby reentry accident occurs) appear to be half, or even a quarter, of what they were in earlier reports. So how adequate has the testing been, really, if the numbers of this supposedly safe and well tested technology can change so much after "decades of successful use"?

And at the very least, it appears that NASA and their subcontractors continue to admit that what I call a significant amount of plutonium (at least several pounds) and what they call an insignificant amount of plutonium WILL in all likelihood be released at high altitude if a flyby reentry occurs. Plus whatever is released on impact with the ground.

Finally, as to your absolutely absurd "personal side note" about comparing the likelihood of a Cassini flyby accident to the likelihood of you being killed at such-and-such a time and in such-and-such a manner, you obviously have some basic misconceptions about everyday statistics. NASA A) is in no position to stand on its past successes, because NASA's real world record is awful, and B) NASA (and you) are in no position to talk as if rare events don't actually happen, sometimes. I find your analogy especially crude considering the manner in which the head of NASA's Solar Systems Exploration Division was killed recently, by a tree falling on his car while he was driving near his home.

Really, what were the chances of that?

On reading the new items you have included, I am not the least bit swayed, especially by Suzanne Godfrey's letter, in which she uses the excuse that nuclear is the best solution we can come up with NOW, so we MUST use it! Saturn isn't going anywhere! Show me a clean fuel, and I'll show you an enthusiasm for Cassini. I am sure that in ten year's time, the Cassini mission -- the exact same mission -- would require half the 745 watts of power that Cassini's current scientific payload requires (because of technological advances). I am also sure that if NASA were forced to use solar solutions, they would find them readily available and highly workable. And lastly, I am sure that NASA's efforts at solar solutions would have lasting benefits for mankind on Earth and in space. As one of your writer's said, "The only proven, peaceful use of plutonium is in RTGs." Not proven, but besides that, there's really no value to the RTG option anyway! It doesn't open up new worlds. It's just one of several solutions NASA could have chosen. Remember NASA's original charter? To explore space for the peaceful benefit of ALL MANKIND! RTGs are both dangerous and replaceable.

What I really don't understand is why so many people with an enthusiasm for space feel they have to jump on just about any bandwagon they find that's called "high tech", especially the nuclear bandwagon. And why they think that anyone who suggests they are stepping over the line on one thing is labeled a "Luddite" as one of your emails does. My past interests which are well documented may not qualify me for much (I'm just a concerned citizen, after all) but it CERTAINLY precludes any such title as that. Personally, of course, I think the real Luddites in today's world are the people who embrace this old, deadly, trashy nuclear junk when so much better solutions abound. They are the people who trust the odds to run in their favor rather than reducing the risk whenever possible.

Did you by any chance expect Mike Tyson to chew on Evander Holyfield's ears? Sometimes the darndest things actually happen. NASA is gambling with the Devil, as Mark Elsis of LOVEARTH so aptly put it. And so are you.

Russell D. Hoffman


At 07:46 PM 6/28/97 -0400, you wrote:
To: Russell D. Hoffman, Editor - "Stop Cassini" Newsletter
From: Jim Spellman - National Space Society/Western Spaceport Chapter & California Space Development Council

I recently saw your posting RE: "Stop Cassini Newsletter Volume #17" that was forwarded to me.

All in all, a lot of heat, but very little light. . .

Enclosed are a few forwarded postings from the Internet for your review. . .

Please pay special note once again to the Editorial by Dr. Louis D. Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society (a "sister" space advocacy organization) -- particularly with the odds of "disaster" against the realities of them actually occuring.

There appears to be some selective editing and omission on your part (such as reports concerning the Apollo 13 ALSEP science station, Nimbus B1 and SNAP-9A/Transit 5BN3) that are already a matter of public record.

Contrary to the false belief that not enough adequate testing or safety reports on the RTG issue have been investigated, I'll be faxing you a separate list (minimum of four pages) of reports and reviews by various agencies for your perusal.

A personal side note: The odds of the "disaster" you mention occuring with the launch of Cassini is about as good as the odds of me being killed tommorrow morning at *exactly* 11:39:05 a.m. at the intersection of Mtn. Mesa Blvd. and Hwy 178 by a Red tractor-trailer rig being driven by a blond member of the Budweiser Swedish Bikini Team.

As soon as you begin to realize the absurdity of the above mentioned occurance actually happening to me, you'll appreciate that the "Chicken Little Theory" being foisted by others is out in left field too.



P.S. -- If interested, visit the following website:

ATTN: Mr. Mike Townsend - Editor
c/o "Letter to the Editor"
Marin Independent Journal
150 Alameda del Prado
P.O. Box 6150
Novato, CA 94948-6150

An Open Letter (and Challenge) to the Honorable Harry Moore - Chair of the Marin County Board of Supervisors:

Last March 25, the Associated Press reported on the Marin County Board of Supervisor's decision to ask President Clinton and others to ". . thoroughly investigate the potential health hazards associated with the Cassini launch as presently designed, to investigate all reasonable alternatives. . .and to delay the launch. . ." pending further study.

Although commendable in its concern for the safety of the world's population, the Board's action and request to halt the Cassini launch is based on false information at best -- and at worst, unnecessary fear and/or superstition generated by well-meaning, but misinformed environmental groups with personal hidden agendas. Fear of the nuclear bogeymen has generated a lot of heat but little light.

I encourage you to seek out for yourselves the answers to the frequently asked questions regarding the use of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) on deep-space probes and nuclear-powered spacecraft.

The following information on Cassini's RTGs and launch plans are publicly accessible by anyone, whatever position they may take: (Cassini RTGs) (General Info)

There is a specific example that directly affected the state of California in the late-60's. In May of 1968, an RTG-powered Nimbus-B1 weather satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County -- known for having some of the strictest environmental regulations in the United States.

The satellite failed to achieve orbit (that's a nice way of saying the Thor Agena-D launch vehicle exploded) and subsequently crashed into the Santa Barbara Channel. Despite the failure of its booster -- and despite its plunge into 300 feet of water off the coast of California -- the RTG was retrieved intact with all of its plutonium fuel safely inside.

In fact, the nuclear fuel was reused on another satellite.

The California Space Development Council (CSDC), an affiliate of the National Space Society (NSS), encourages open discussion and education regarding the risks and benefits of opening the space frontier and creating a spacefaring civilization.

We therefore challenge you, Mr. Moore -- and the Marin County Board of Supervisors who voted unanimously in this decision -- to an open public debate on the issue of RTG nuclear power sources for spacecraft, at a date, time and venue of your choosing, prior to the scheduled October launch of the Cassini probe.

Let's get both sides of this question out in the open, and let people make up their own minds.

We await a response from your office.


James Spellman, Jr.
President - California Space Development Council
Executive Director - NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter


The Marin County Board of Supervisors recently has petitioned the President, the California Congressional Delegation, and the California Legislature to postpone the launch of the Cassini mission to the planet Saturn.

The Supervisors have expressed concerns about the safety of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) used on Cassini and other deep space probes. While the concern exhibited by the Supervisors for the public safety is laudable, their lack of knowledge regarding RTGs can only bring public harm.

RTGs are extremely safe energy sources and are necessary for probes that are sent great distances from the Sun. Satellites and missions to the Inner Planets can use solar energy; however, current solar energy technology can not effectively convert solar energy to usable energy in deep space.

RTGs have a phenomenal safety record. They are perhaps the most indestructible devices ever created by human hand. RTGs have survived launch failures, including a failed weather satellite launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1968.

The Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement (OASIS) can provide scientists, engineers, and educators able to explain the workings of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators in terms that the general public can understand. It is our belief that the public can understand and will support the use of RTGs in the nation's space exploration efforts.

OASIS is the Los Angeles chapter of the National Space Society, an international, grassroots pro-space educational organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

On the World Wide Web, OASIS information can be found at:

Internet email address:

Subj: Re: FWD: Attack by Luddites coming
Date: 97-06-24 23:45:41 EDT
From: (William M. Cress)

Dear Jim:

I was the Reactor Plant Chemist when the Light Water Breeder at Shippingport closed. I have toured a plutonium processing plant who wanted me to work there.

I have some *real* experience in this, even if I'm not a Ph.D.

This (accusations made by the anti-RTG people) is ludicrous.

Thanks for the "heads up."

Bill Cress


Subj: NSS-Discuss/ Cassini opposition
Date: 97-06-25 03:43:54 EDT
From: (Puro, Glenn)
Reply-to: (Puro, Glenn)
To: (NSS-Discuss)

[ NSS-Discuss message from "Puro, Glenn" ]

Thanks for that posting of anti-Cassini material. I have a few comments.

The only proven, peaceful use of plutonium is in RTGs. Although the amount used by Cassini will scarely make a dent in the surplus tons of it, I'd think anyone would be glad to see some of it used constructively.

Many of the tactics suggested by Cassini's opponents are just as applicable to its supporters.

I wonder if anyone in the opposition noticed that the date for the Cape Canaveral Rally to Stop Cassini is the anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1?

Glenn Puro


Subj: RE: Cassini Mission
Date: 97-06-26 04:48:10 EDT
From: Galactica9
CC:, WSpaceport

Dear Mr. President,

I have been disturbed by the recent public attention that a small group of activists claiming that they are environmentalists have stirred up over the upcoming launch of the Cassini mission by Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It disturbs me to see such fear and ignorance. These people obviously have not done their research on the subject and only know part of the truth. From the little they know, they act upon fear, rather than knowledge.

Nuclear fission is a hazardous form of power on Earth, but much less hazardous in outer space. It is only a temporary problem, however, since other technologies are being created as we speak -- nuclear fusion, solar power, etc.

The disturbing issue is that these type of environmentalists are the very ones who prevent the new technologies from being created because of their fears, thus, they continue to hold the Earth in the terrible grip of nuclear power. In trying to save the environment in their heads, they are actually slowly killing it.

I am urging you as a taxpaying citizen to approve the launch of Cassini so that we may continue to explore our universe, thus, learn more about ourselves and our environment, and bring us closer to independence from Starship Earth. When ordinary citizens begin to work and play in space, then and only then will we relieve our environment and demand less of Earth's resources. The only environmental solution to using up Earth's resources is for humanity to expand into space. If we fear every vehicle that aims for that purpose, we will be trapped here.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Suzanne Godfrey
President - Las Vegas Space Society
(A Chapter of the National Space Society)


He also include Louis Friedman's remarks which we have already published and/or published the URL of, in recent newsletters. To save space those are not reproduced here.


Please feel free to post these newsletters anywhere you feel it's appropriate! THANKS!!!

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


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Last modified August 17th, 1997.
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