STOP CASSINI Newsletter #59 -- October 28th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #59 - October 28th, 1997


2nd post-Cassini launch issue. Topics discussed include space debris, a letter from Al Gore's staff, and an attempt at giving some perspective to the Stop Cassini battle.

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #59 October 28th, 1997 *****

Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #59 October 28th, 1997 ******

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

*** The statistical significance of the successful Cassini launch is not zero:

The statistical significance of the successful Cassini launch is not zero, but it's close. If 100 or even 1000 Cassini's were successfully launched, it would not prove the error of our position against it. Yet somehow, people think that because we objected to Cassini's launch, we have been "proven" wrong. We haven't been and that's all there is to it. Those that would claim such a thing, show their basic lack of understanding of statistical relevance.

A few days before launch one of my local newspapers, the San Diego Union-Tribune, a newspaper which appears to have numerous "hidden" agendas, wrote that, "Mainstream environmentalists should steer clear of the anti-Cassini crowd, because they're about to be thoroughly discredited."

As if.

As if one successful launch could possibly discredit our campaign against the madness of Cassini. As if NASA's atrocious overall record with nuclear payloads -- a much better indicator than one launch -- has not been discussed on these pages and elsewhere in the movement. As if, in the end, "mainstream environmentalists" actually followed this lame advice and steered clear of us. Both Greenpeace and the Sierra Club came out against Cassini. How much more mainstream can you get?

*** There is no room for compromise:

In the nukes and weapons in space issue, there is no room for compromise. Every member of this movement who thinks we have achieved some level of victory because the mainstream press, in the last few weeks, showed a few of us as talking heads for 3.2 seconds or 15 words or less, is fooling themselves and selling the very soul of the planet to the evil "powers that be". There is no room for compromise with people who ask for permission to risk global catastrophe of Cassini's potential magnitude, who lie to you about what the risks are, who refuse to look at the alternatives, who send agent provocateurs to disrupt your efforts, and then -- this is the ultimate gall -- expect you, the taxpayer and citizen, to pay for it all, not only when they build it, but whenever it fails. You will pay, and NASA will go on doing whatever you let them get away with.

Some wonder how much more abuse our planet can take. I think it can take quite a bit more damage, before the most dense among us see the problems. I think it is already over-forested, over-mined, over-polluted, and over-populated. This is not a sustainable system. This is not a workable mindset for the planet.

Something needs to change. But what? Tear down everything society has achieved? It's a rotten, bleeding, cancerous, gangrene-filled world, but it's the best we've got. This is not a time for revolution, in fact, that time may never come again. It is time to fix the institutions we've got. It is a time for those that gots to consider the advantages of helping those that haven't got. It is a time for open discussion. It is a time to begin to admit how little we know, not how much we know. I think every scientist I have ever met would agree that even in their own field, there is always so much to learn. We are at the threshold of a new era, but not a new era of knowledge so much as a new era of recognizing that we need more data. That we haven't got a really good grasp on what the underlying mechanisms are in the natural world or in our manmade modern high tech wonder world. If we let free markets decide everything, baseball half innings would have 20 minutes between them, like football halftimes. Some control from outside "the club" is vital, and baseball should go back to 90 seconds between rounds. And the broadcast network should be required to NOT insert a commercial everywhere they theoretically could. Maybe commercial time should be outlawed entirely! This is possible in the world of the Internet, and we could still have ads. They would just run concurrent, not interrupt. I didn't get side-tracked I came back and added this stuff later. Baseball is important. I know because I just took time off to watch the World Series and I don't regret a minute of it.

But obviously, I digress:

The Environmental Impact Statement is a good thing -- it needs to be made more important. It needs to come first and it needs to come clean. NASA needs to be told that they must produce future EIS's directly on the Internet, so that people can read them. NASA doesn't want to do this, but they should be forced to.

We need to keep trying to reach our elected officials. In the end, 15 Congresspersons signed a document calling for hearings about Cassini. Next time, maybe it will be 30. There will be a next time, and a next after that. Maybe the flyby will continue to generate calls for hearings. It's possible, and it would be proper. NASA got away with the launch. NASA thinks they have won a great propaganda victory because they successfully held the wolves back long enough to launch. They should not be rewarded for their actions, first, denying us any opportunity for dialogue, then a brutal outburst of NASA PR to overcome the last-minute storm. We could have had hearings. If NASA has a clear scientific case, hearings would not be a problem for them and they should not have feared them. But clearly NASA did fear hearings, and we can infer this because NASA would not answer the scientist's objections without them, instead making lame claims that our scientists's work was not peer reviewed, or that they had not responded to "registered letters" and other malarky, instead of actually sitting down and trying to answer the scientist's complaints.

*** Some lame advice:

We failed to stop Cassini. The anti-nuclear Cassini movement was a failure. Maybe the public needs to pick new leaders. Maybe the public needs to learn how to pick it's leaders better. Well there's a new thought.

For those who feel let down by me in any way, and I know there are many, I can only say that I did my best to find the truth and the science of what was going on, and those who have been offended, GOT WHAT THEY DESERVED!!! . Or, in the rare instance where an apology was due, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I have already apologized to them...

I know a lot of people aren't going to believe this, but I never meant to climb to the top of this or any movement. In fact, I only wanted the floor...

I still oppose the flyby. Of the first 100 questions we asked NASA and everyone else about Cassini, about 95 of them remain wholly unanswered.

The nuclear issue is being fought in macrocosm, and Cassini is just a microcosm of the event. It is a tiny battle in a big war that right now humanity is losing and special interests are winning, such as NUKEM in Germany and, of course, all the Westinghouses and General Electrics, Lockheeds and Martin-Mariettas, and so on, here in America.

NASA is only an open target. The other forces that need to be opposed, that are pushing this nuclear agenda on Earth and in space, are harder to fight and harder to find. They don't produce Environmental Impact Statements. They don't tell us what they are doing at all. Secret military payloads. These multi-billion dollar has-beens of technological warfare need to be replaced with multi-billion dollar investments in education here on Earth. I believe that if the money we waste on nuclear war and nuclear energy was put into giving bright students a guaranteed college education instead, in 20 year's time, we would see a new America rise up out of the mud this America is destined to leave as a historic record.

We have a new millennium coming fast upon us, and it is now nearly inevitable that when history looks back at America of these last few decades since WWII, at this last half century, history will not judge us kindly. If history has the chance to judge us at all. We are leaving the world a worse place than we found it. We are losing the game, and most of us don't even know what games we are playing. We are playing with toys that have enormous potential for harm, but yet we still live in the dark ages of ability to detect which of these toys are really dangerous. NASA pretends we are on the precipice of great scientific discoveries about the origin of life, but in reality we don't know much of anything, and just about all science has taught us so far is that there is a great deal left to learn. I say this not from an anti-science point of view, but from a pro-science point of view. Someone suggested I ask my readers how many of them consider themselves "experts" in their fields, and how many consider themselves "students". For it is those who recognize that even the experts are students, who the real experts.

I called for a scientific approach to Cassini, and I continue to denounce Cassini on the grounds that its risks and the bad science used to promote those risks outweighs any good science that can possibly come out of it. We should not consider Saturn to be so vital to our sphere of immediate knowledge that we would risk what Cassini has risked and continues to risk against humanity for some perceived knowledge gain. This is just the kind of science we DON'T need. In 13 years -- NOT the 175 that NSS claimed -- we could launch again towards Saturn. The planetary alignment isn't all that rare. We could have waited for appropriate technology to catch up with our dreams.

*** Space Debris: What's the problem?


The Satellite Boom: Things that go bump in space

By Craig Bicknell



"Since the 1950s, people have been launching things with a total disregard for space debris issues," says prominent satellite insurance broker Alden Richards...

In 1990, a pair of German scientists at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Peter Eichler and Dietrich Rex, released a study claiming that space debris had ... reached a deadly critical mass...

It's a theory called the Cascade, and it scares...a lot people. "In an extreme, apocalyptic case," says Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists, "it could cause a kind of planetary quarantine, in which much of Earth's orbit would be rendered totally unusable."...

But Nick Johnson, head of NASA's Orbital Debris Research Project and the world's arch-guru of debris analysis, downplays the threat of a catastrophic chain reaction: "We do not ascribe to that particular assessment. We believe it's a long-term potential, one that is not inevitable, and is not near term."

Johnson's not critical of Eichler and Rex -- Eichler now works for him -- but of their outdated debris-field prediction models, circa 1990. "The discipline has matured greatly since then -- they had a very low-fidelity model, and they got a very low-quality result."...

NASA has actively educated the industry to the threat of space junk, and it's banking on the strength of economic self-interest ... to serve as a potent self-policing force.


"Everyone says that everyone's working in everybody's interest, but it'd be a lot better if there were an international decree," says Alden Richards, CEO of Space Machine Advisors, a satellite insurance brokerage. "I don't think there is self-policing."

Richards and [other] insurers see international regulation as the only remedy.

NASA's Johnson acknowledges that certain companies might not play by the rules, but he doesn't want to see competition quashed by heavy-handed environmental regulation spawned in the bowels of UN bureaucracy. "We're trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. We prefer to give the industry the chance to regulate itself."

Other scientists agree: "Debris has been an issue of debate at COPUOS, the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, but that committee never accomplishes anything useful," says scientist Aftergood, "It's a hideous way to try to determine international space policy."

Even if the UN were to issue any sort of ruling, it wouldn't be soon. The COPUOS scientific and technical team is in the midst of a three-year review of the space debris issue.

"Our position is that we don't have a problem yet, so we're not looking for a solution," says Johnson, the US delegate to COPUOS.



This is frightening. We DO have a problem RIGHT NOW, and it's going to get worse. Let me give an analogy to the problem: Imagine if, when the "wild west" was "settled" last century (that is to say, when the Indians and the buffalo were slaughtered, and the trees were cut down, of course) that every time a bullet was fired, it remained in flight for decades or even hundreds or thousands of years.

The West might still have been settled, because one bullet, or a hundred bullets, or even a thousand bullets, wizzing around all the time wouldn't be enough to be of any great concern to the settlers. But as the West became more crowded, to the point where tens of millions of people live there, well, these bullets wizzing around would indeed be a problem. That's what the problem of space debris is like. It's a little problem now, because space has not been exploited to any great degree yet. But a continuation of current trends is out of the question, and Nick Johnson's optimism is unfounded.

If the comments by him in the above article are a fair representation of his attitude and the attitude America is presenting at COPUOS, I must ask how anything good can possibly be accomplished there. We are the high-speed bull in the orbital china shop and we are throwing a lot of our weight around up there.

Another analogy would be: If each settler in the once wild West set off a powerful bomb in their house at the end of it's use to them (for collisions are inevitable if the satellites are left up there) and then the shrapnel -- the fragments from the explosion -- continued to fly around virtually forever. How many houses could be built and then left there to explode and contaminate the land, run into other houses and cause them to explode, and so on?

Nick Johnson is wrong. This is a problem NOW that needs the utmost consideration. Each mission to outer space needs to justify itself against the potential increase in space debris it can cause and the subsequent diminishing of the value of Earth Orbital Space and increased risk to all future missions.

*** The Leonid Meteor Shower, Solar Panels, and RTGs:

It is possible to predict one possible future of space power systems now. It's nuclear. It's deadly, but it's highly efficient -- if you don't have to pay all the real costs.


From front page of SPACE NEWS (Vol. 8, No. 40 - Oct 20-26, 1997):

PAS-6 Exhibits Same Design Flaw as Loral's Tempo

Washington -- Identical problems on two Loral-built spacecraft have prompted the company to at least temporarily stop using gallium arsenide solar panels.

According to an industry source, Space Systems/Loral concluded that a design problem in the panels supplied by Daimler Benz Aerospace AG (Dasa), Munich, Germany, is responsible for the short circuits on satellites the company built for TCI Satellite entertainment Inc., Englewood, Colo. and PanAmSat, of Greenwich, Conn.

Loral will no longer use Dasa-built solar panels of the same design, the source said. Jeanette Clonan, Loral's spokeswoman, did not return telephone calls. . .


This type of "problem" will get worse. What we have here, and in several other incidents this year, is a clear and present threat to the use of solar as a power source. Not only solar, but all non-nuclear power sources have taken it on the chin this year. That is why this battle against RTG solutions must not end with Cassini's launch.

Fuel cells were blamed for an early return last February...

Also, the Lewis Satellite last September was reported to have failed because it's solar panels could not be extended due to high G-forces produced by a thruster misfire which caused the satellite to spin excessively...

Now, reports of solar panel failures. These reports are very significant, when combined with NASA's relatively lackadaisical attitude towards the growing problem of space debris, as reported above. If the Leonid meteor shower of 1997, 1998, or 1999 is indeed 10,000 times more severe than normal, as has been predicted by scientists and historians, and if a significant number of satellites are destroyed, there could be a huge increase in Earth Orbital Space Debris. The first effect will be that solar panels used in Near Earth Orbit will become ineffective because their large surface areas make them susceptible to micrometeoriod damage. So NASA will want to turn to RTGs.

We must not let them do this, for all the reasons we opposed the Cassini launch. Anything in Earth orbit will, in the absence of some outside energy input, eventually, fall back to Earth. And as a possible flyby planet, a significant increase in Earth orbital debris would make each flyby -- including Cassini's -- that much more dangerous.

The proper alternative is to avoid Earth orbiting satellites entirely for many of the purposes for which they are now being used.

For example, 500 broadcast channels on a couple of dozen orbiting satellites is all wrong. What we should have is 500,000 channels on an Earth-based fiber optic network. CSPAN 1 and CSPAN 2 should be replaced with CSPAN1 through CSPAN 50,000. This will only be possible with ground-based interconnected systems. The Internet is the model, maybe even the actual backbone. Not mass media. That's a model for mass control. We want democracy, and the Internet is a key to humanity's achievement of a higher level of social discourse. Forget CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and all the rest. Look for the truth at the source. Don't read what the Washington Post says NASA says. Read NASA's own petard. On the Internet.

A nuclear payload in Near Earth Orbit, if it is impacted by other space debris, will produce small particles of nuclear space debris, of course. These then will endanger not only people on Earth when the debris falls to earth, but also any potential future manned space missions. For example, the MIR space station is said to be able to survive about a 6 inch hole. Such a hole might be caused by a BB-sized particle. But if that particle is plutonium, when it impacts MIR or some other space station, it will instantly fill the air with extremely dangerous vaporized radiative dust. Some of this air will immediately be lost in space, of course, but no otherwise-survivable accident is likely to discharge all of it. It will get in the filters, land on the surfaces of the equipment, and generally make a mess of the space station that would otherwise have simply suffered a minor decompression incident. I mention this as just one more reason we should not turn to nuclear solutions just because solar solutions are not always 100% effective. But mainly, I mention this to point out one more reason why all space missions should have a distinct and useful purpose for humanity.

*** Why did it take nearly a month for a letter to get from the Vice President's office to mine?

Does this make you sick, Mr. Vice President? That a letter from Bill Mason, Director of Correspondence for the Vice President, addressed to me at my post office box, dated September 29th, 1997, about Cassini, would take nearly a month to reach me? Doesn't it make you wonder if someone purposely held that letter up?

And why did Mr. Mason suggest I contact NASA, when the whole reason I was writing you (as would have been abundantly clear had anyone on your staff actually read what I sent) was that NASA has been unresponsive?

Why was your staff member's letter delayed? There is no postmark: Shall we simply blame the post office? Why didn't your staffer use email? What? The White House isn't that sophisticated yet? Why not? You call yourselves high-tech, you revel in NASA's so-called high-tech accomplishments, yet your staff can't send U.S. Citizen Mr. Russell D. Hoffman an email? These are strange times we live in, and I guess I am but a stranger here as well.

*** Best article about Cassini we've seen:

Speaking of being late, an email arrived properly, a week or a few weeks before the launch, and I missed it. It requested that I check out a story about Cassini at the Shift Online web site. I finally did, and I think it's the best Cassini article I have read, and I wish I had heard about it sooner. Check it out, even if it is old news now. Here's the URL:


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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