STOP CASSINI Newsletter #69 -- August 20th, 1998

Copyright (c) 1998

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Last issue (#68), I asked for any information anyone had on whether last week's Titan IVA spy satellite which veered off course 40 seconds into launch and was subsequently (2 seconds later) "auto-destructed", contained a nuclear device of some sort (an RTG). We have no news, but wow do we have rumors of news, and theories to match! About Monica Lewinsky? No, about nuclear devices on board Titan IV rockets. Everything we have to say about Monica Lewinsky, we can't print. But search engines will love this issue if I say it again: Monica Lewinsky. So that is why this is the Monica Lewinsky issue. In March, 1997, a few months after I got into the Cassini battle, if you went to Yahoo and typed "Cassini" and "Plutonium", of the first fifty listings that came up, about thirty of them (including three of the first five) were mine. From my STOP CASSINI web site, that is.

I mentioned this to a few people including, I assume, at least one of the agent-provocateurs our movement is filled with, and sure enough, within a matter of weeks NASA had begun to take care of the problem. A few months later, and I was maybe 5 of the first 50 entries. Now, Yahoo has a short organized section regarding Cassini, which we are included on. In the general list, we came up first, seventh, and then not again in the top 100. Times change. I wonder what NASA has to say about Monica Lewinsky?

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #69, August 20th, 1998 *****

Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #69, August 20th, 1998 ******

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

*** Was there any plutonium on board this Titan IVA rocket? (revisited)

Last issue (#68), I reported that ONE person had claimed to hear ONE report that said there was an RTG of some sort on the TITAN IV that exploded over Florida last week. That person has since gotten back to me to report that it was a CNN report they had heard. Another person has also reported hearing such a report once, and it too was on CNN, they think. It is important that CNN be nailed down on this! Their reporter must be found and must be convinced to tell us all they know and where they learned it. Surely CNN would never make stuff up (would they?) so if it is true that they originally reported radioactive material on board, what happened to the report?

Someone has left a lot of smoking guns among the smoldering ruins. Maybe that, and only that, is the intention -- to scare us all into thinking there may have been plutonium on board, so they can flat-out deny it. Nah, they aren't that complicated. Either there was plutonium on board, or someone wants us to think there was. But what are the chances they want us to think about it at all?


I believe the clues I've collected are valid clues if taken with the grains of salt in the wounds as described below. Americans should demand definitive statements from the President regarding whether or not there was a nuclear device on board the Titan IVA that blew up last week.

Not that we'd believe him anyway, of course. I mean, the very same week as the Monica Lewinsky thing -- that would be the perfect time for him to come out and say right to America's face: "MY FELLOW AMERICANS: THERE WAS [or WAS NOT] A RADIOISOTOPE THERMOELECTRIC GENERATOR (he should say the whole thing just to show us he knows what he's talking about) ON BOARD THE VORTEX-TOPPED TITAN IVA WHICH BLEW UP LAST WEEK OVER FLORIDA, EMBARRASSING THE NATION A LOT MORE THAN I DID THE FOLLOWING MONDAY."

Then, if he said there WAS an RTG on board, he should explain the health consequences to the world and the nation. Honestly. How will victims die if plutonium was indeed released? Slowly. Painfully. Expensively. Needlessly.

If he said there WASN'T, well, like I said, not that we'd believe him anyway. But America does need an answer. We thought that was egg we saw on the President's face during the Cassini battle, but now we realize it may have been something else. A loose cannon shot heard 'round the world.

The tradition of lies and secrecy that embodies the American space programs -- both military and civilian -- makes it imperative that we look for clues and try to determine the truth of the matter, because nobody saying anything is not the same as nobody doing anything.

During the Cassini battle it was made clear that for there to be ANY United States launches of nuclear material, it had to be signed off by the president after a scientific review panel looked into the matter. So the question of whether or not President Clinton signed off on the Titan launch might answer the question of whether or not there was radioactive material on board. So we should ask him! I know my president will give me an honest answer. He never lies to the American people, and I and many Americans need to know: Was there a nuclear device on board that rocket, Mr. President? When you said you didn't ask anyone to hide or destroy evidence, did that mean you never asked anyone to swallow the facts, either?

Military secrecy and national security are poor excuses to hide a health catastrophe from the public, if one has occurred. The rocket blew up. What was on it?

*** A chilling message

The next email was first sent to us by award-winning Investigative Journalist Karl Grossman. Afterwards, the call it refers to is transcribed and then the email is discussed. It has many peculiar features.

From: Karl Grossman
Subject: Titan 4 Launch Explosion

The following message was left on the answering machine of the Durham, North Carolina-based group Waste Awareness and Reduction Network on the afternoon of August 17, 1998.

The transcript was made by Jim Warren, the executive director of the group, who said that the "person sounds credible." I listened to the tape and, indeed, he sure does.

There must be an effort to see if this information can be corroborated -- but, considering that a secret military project was involved, I think it will be very, very difficult.

The E-mail of WARN is and its telephone number is (919) 490-0747 if you would like more information from Warren.


I'm calling in regards to the accident on Wednesday involving the Vortex classified satellite being launched by the Titan.

I'll make this very brief.

I'm a project engineer and I think the public needs to know that was an RTG power device. When the Air Force issued the destruct command after the initial explosion, they did so to reduce the possibility of the public determining that there was, indeed, a plutonium fuel cell.

They reduced everything to particulate matter when they issued the destruct sequence. Which means the twenty pounds of plutonium went airborne at 20,000 feet off the coast of Florida on Wednesday during a failed Titan launch of the Vortex.

That plutonium has now passed over the majority of the East Coast.

This is the single largest nuclear accident in the history of the United States.

Its risks for public safety are unprecedented.

And major media sources are not reporting this. They are reporting the accident but they are not including the critical piece of information that the public needs to be aware of -- And that is an RTG power device and the Air Force chose to detonate it after the initial explosion, and thus ensuring the plutonium went to particulate and was dispersed atmospherically across the East Coast.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, like I say, I am a project engineer.

We have all been affected by this.

And I hope that you or somebody in your organization can help get the word out.

Please get on the Internet, contact foreign newspapers, contact everybody you can because this has to get out.

There are three more Vortex launches scheduled.

Thank you very much.


There are a number of oddities here that make this call suspect. But there are many oddities that make the official explanation suspect as well. Something definitely does not smell good here, and it's leaving a bad taste in my mouth. (Vaporized plutonium is of course odorless, tasteless and microscopic even in fatal quantities.)

If the military was using an RTG, it seems to me that they would have at least built them the way NASA builds them, with GISs and GPHSs (inside the RTGs) to protect the plutonium (somewhat) in the event of an accident. Indeed the military works closely with NASA on NASA's RTGs (as does DOE).

The caller is clearly stating that the RTG he says was on this rocket did NOT have any of these protective systems. Otherwise only a tiny fraction (still possibly a tragedy) would be the most anyone would really expect to be released. NOT the whole amount. It is hard to believe that there would be no protective casings, since NASA was so adamant that their entire safety system was based on these layers of protection. Would the military not use them at all? If so, then the RTG would be very different from the NASA style. Quite possible, actually, since just before Cassini flew last year, NASA (to deflect political heat they were feeling at the time) announced that the next generation of RTGs would be five times more efficient than the RTGs on Cassini, thus assuring the semi-comatose American public that they had things under control. So major changes were occurring to the system anyway. Maybe NASA's new system works by eliminating the casings, too! And I have never been given any reason, despite several requests for information, to think the Russian system does not work that way (no casings).

Oh, how I wish for Kenneth Starr's subpoena power! (That comment is in keeping with my Monica Lewinsky theme). And his $50 million fact-finding expense account!

Another problem with this message someone left on WARN's answering machine is that if an RTG was lost as described, with its 20 pounds or so of Plutonium 238 (mostly), it is likely the radiation would be easily detectable, even if it was released and vaporized at 20,000 feet. That's just an awful lot of plutonium! Of course, if the Air Force could be sure it would all blow out to sea first,with most heavy particles landing in the ocean, and then scatter widely as it came back over land, they'd be okay (free of culpability: No *discernable* deaths), providing no cruise ships, pleasure boats, or rainbow warriors with geiger counters happen to pass beneath the plume. And that, they might have been able to ensure with a large enough safety range.

*** The Incredible Shrinking Man?

Not likely. Nor is Godzilla. Instead, what happens is lung cancers and leukemia deaths from vaporized plutonium, and a host of other horrid "health effects" as the space cowboys like to say.

The person who left the message does not seem to understand that when plutonium is vaporized that way, it produces a spectrum of sizes of particles. It is unlikely that any amount of blowing it up even more with extra explosives on board the Titan IVA would change that fact. It would still be a spectrum of sizes, albeit with a smaller average size. More important than making small pieces smaller is that it likely would make chunks into vapor, exactly the opposite of what any rational human being would want. Chunks are practically benign in comparison to vaporized plutonium 238. Score one for the idea that this message is a hoax. But perhaps the caller, like many others, is merely somewhat misinformed, yet still holds key facts.

The secret satellite was reported to be carrying a football-field size antenna folded up inside it. For Cassini NASA claimed that the huge antenna it needed to communicate with Earth also blocked the sun, and Cassini's wasn't even as big. By that token a solar power energy unit would be a real pain for this mission because it would need to be oriented towards the sun, while the antenna is oriented towards different places on Earth.

Another clue: We have learned that there was an unusual urgent evacuation of all guests immediately after the accident, and furthermore local residents have been told not to pick up any parts they might find. Why not? Might those parts possibly be radioactive? These unusual actions were reported to me by a very reliable source, via telephone.

*** Another clue: The wind

During the Cassini affair, Mark Elsis of (recently back online) attempted to get NASA to make a statement saying that they would only launch when the winds were out to sea. At no time was he able to get them to agree to this! I do not recall the actual winds when Cassini launched (perhaps a reader will refresh me) but I do recall that NASA consistently denied the importance of wind direction.

In the June 1995 Cassini Mission Environmental Impact Study, on page 3-12, are the wind roses for the area. In August, they indicate that winds tend toward SSE. For Cassini's October launch they tended toward ENE. They tend to change from onshore to offshore and back again once each 24 hour period, as winds do in many coastal locations.

Launch-time wind direction did not seem to be a major concern in the 1995 Cassini EIS. Under section 2.2.8, Range Safety Considerations, it includes lightening, electromagnetic interference, "charging effects" and "ordinance and fuels", but wind direction is not listed as a consideration.

But for this most recent launch, many reports said wind direction WAS a primary consideration, and as luck would have it (for the local populace) they wanted the winds to blow OUT to sea during the launch, and so who knows how many lives were thusly saved? Even without the radiation threat, there were still all those nasty unburnt, partially burnt, and fully combusted chemicals to deal with. Personally, it makes one wonder why all such rockets are not shot off only when winds are out to sea and predicted to stay that way.

Right now, if there was an RTG on board, Navy Seals are recovering, if they have not already done so, what they can find of the GISs, GPHSs, or even the whole RTG unit. Unless of course, the stuff was indeed designed to incinerate, as I had at first suspected about the Cassini RTGs, and like I still suspect about the Russian ones, both military and civilian (not that there's much difference over there -- or here).

*** Solar panels might get in the way

For Cassini, NASA said it would be hard to maneuver a craft with large solar panels. Here, they need to maneuver a huge antenna to home in on certain spots on the ground (different spots at different times). Having solar panels would complicate the maneuvers.

*** Here's what I think

It seems to me that the clues presented here are widespread. They do not stem from a single source event or time period. But it is not always easy to tell fact from fiction or hoaxes, especially well-orchestrated hoaxes.

I think most likely is that either there was an RTG on board, but it had the usual containment system, NOT one designed to completely incinerate in a launch accident, or there was none on board, in which case why all the strange behavior?

The difference regarding the wind could simply be that, being a military launch, they really didn't want the possibility of having to admit there was plutonium. They don't want the polical hassles NASA had over launches of plutonium, and they are very, very good at secrecy. They probably figure they could "survive" a launch failure of some percentage of the payload if the winds took it out to sea and spread it around before it came down (which eventually, all vaporized plutonium will do, being so much heavier than most other molecules in the air). But it can take weeks, months, even years. So if a few grams blew out to sea for a while and then came back in, there could be thousands of scattered deaths up and down the Eastern seaboard, as the caller suggests, and WE WOULDN'T EVEN BE ABLE TO IDENTIFY THE DEATHS, or even hotspots of deaths. Maybe we would be able to if perfect records were kept, but perfect records are NOT kept, and never have been. Not since Alamogordo and Hiroshima, or Bikini. Not by us, or by France, or India, or Pakistan -- no one is counting who is dying.

If the call is real, but my theory is also correct about what type of containment was used in the RTG, then several discrepancies are cleared up. Perhaps the caller works rather far away from the RTGs themselves, and does not know their details, but not so far as to be unaware of their use on the spacecraft. On the other hand, what if the caller was right on the money?

One RTG of the type used on Cassini would contain about 20 to 25 pounds of plutonium -- about the same as the number referenced in the message. Hundreds of billions of potentially lethal doses. And one RTG could probably provide power for the satellite's mission. For example, it might only have to communicate with another nearby satellite in outer space itself, making its power requirements for outgoing messages trivial. Positioning might be done with combustion fuels, so there would be little electrical energy needed there. The antenna itself needs to listen, not broadcast. Very delicate. Very low power. If the satellite was intended to be kept in earthshadow as much as possible it could not use solar power (except combined with batteries) and would need RTGs or some other alternative power source. Titan is the biggest unmanned launch vehicle we have -- it sent Cassini out of Earth's orbit (with help from a Centaur booster stage). It could probably lift "VORTEX" to a geosynchronous orbit, where it would be especially useful for nighttime snooping, because the sun really messes with radio waves. It probably works best when it is in shadow too, as well as the place it is snooping. Further, it would probably be best to be stationary over a point for continued snooping. This also suggests a geosynchronous orbit. Such a big antenna (or anything else) is less susceptible to space debris damage in that orbit, too, so that's another possible clue to where it was going.

If it's in darkness, it's hidden, which seems like a good thing for a superduperspooksnooper. It's reasonable to assume they prefer it in darkness, since a football-field-sized snooping device in the blazing sun would probably be rather easy to see when you are in darkness as you view it.

There are a lot of hints. It seems that either there was an RTG power source on the Titan IVA that blew up last week, or else that is what we are supposed to think, at least by some folks who are trying to perpetrate a hoax -- that is, the call might be a hoax. But the person who received it is very real, and contacted the proper "authorities" (namely, other anti-nukes-in-space movement leaders, some of whom contacted me).

The email about a CNN report might be a hoax, but hopefully someone reading this knows how to squeeze CNN to make a statement explaining why at least one person is sure they heard such a report. We are NOT trying to spread a hoax or a rumor here, only to present what has been heard and analyze the possibilities. Nor are any of the others I have dealt with regarding this latest blast trying to perpetrate a hoax or a rumor (as far as I know). I think every American -- every world citizen -- wants the truth. And not about how sweet (or not) Monica Lewinsky is. (Isn't that the 9th or 10th time I've mentioned her?)

*** A message for President Clinton

Mr. President, I believe the whole world is watching, but they are not watching you regarding Monica Lewinsky. They, like me, wish to know what really happened last week. I believe America deserves a firm, uncomplicated answer, Mr. President, and not to what you did, or perhaps didn't do, with Monica Lewinsky in the privacy of the Oval Office.

You say you want to get on with matters. THIS is what matters. Why is America responding to increased nuclear threats throughout the world by promoting, exporting, funding, and launching this stuff? Instead, why not try to teach the world the horror of the path they are going down? Instead of hiding the harmful effects of our own nuclear policy, and simply paying off those who get close to winning damage suits against the Federal Government (over $200,000,000 so far, according to Walter Cronkite) why not start telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about where our military is using nuclear power, why, and when they are going to stop, and what the full legacy of that use is. We are (supposedly) not in the midst of a Cold War. It's high time for a rational nuclear policy on the part of the United States, because one thing is obvious now: Other countries are one by one, becoming irrational like us. Ban the bomb? Can't we just ban 99% of them, for starters?

Sir, I believe the American public can handle truth. They seem strong enough to survive everything else that's been thrown at them this century. Surely, in a country founded on truth, filled with people brought up to believe in truth as the ultimate weapon of democracy, surely in that country, there can be truth. Surely, I should not have to wonder if my military is using plutonium 238 on board Titan IV's after we struggled so hard to prevent NASA's similar use -- we have a right to know, even if we cannot prevent it. No state secret or national security issue here could possibly outweigh the need to lead in an International policy to prevent nuclear missions -- especially plutonium 238-based missions.

Please tell us, Mr. President: What was on that rocket that everyone was running from? Can the military explain its odd behavior regarding this flight? And what about CNN once reporting a nuclear payload, then not again? And the peculiar phone message? Mr. President, I've heard far more than I ever wanted to hear about your personal affairs in the Oval Office. What happened in Florida last week?

*** Suggested additional reading

Anyone who wants more information regarding launch accident scenarios involving RTGs is encouraged to read Dr. Horst Poehler's Cassini Cancers article. Information about him is included. Here is the URL:


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


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