STOP CASSINI Newsletter #83 -- December 4th, 1998

Copyright (c) 1998

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #83 - December 4th, 1998
Sent to: Subscriber List, press, elected officials. May be redistributed and reprinted if done responsibly.


We haven't seen it, but Karl Grossman's NUKES IN SPACE 2 is out and we're sure it's a classic (and have ordered a copy to find out for ourselves). Ordering information is given in the email shown below.

Also, this issue includes a response to what appears to this writer to be a very reasoned consideration of the facts about Cassini -- the facts, that is, as presented to the general public by NASA and the media. That is to say, the incoming letter appears to me to be a good example of what the public is supposed to think. I put the extra-wide polemic paintbrush to work on it.

No news yet on any Leonid-related damage. Maybe in 1999?

It's that time of year, so in case this is the last issue before 1999: Have a great holiday season. I know many who subscribe to this newsletter, and pass it around, have worked hard against threats like Cassini. There is a lot of hard work going on all around. And yet if one asks, has the "doomsday clock" been set back a little since Cassini launched, I'd reckon not -- things are generally getting worse. But enjoy the season anyway!

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #83, December 4th, 1998 *****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #83, December 4th, 1998 ******

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

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

***** VOLUME #83, December 4th, 1998 *****



NUKES IN SPACE 2: UNACCEPTABLE RISKS - a powerful new documentary released by ENVIROVIDEO is now available.

Please see (see below).

We would appreciate it if you would consider posting/distributing the Press release and sending copy to your local newspaper.

TO OBTAIN A COPY send $19.95 +$2(s&h) to: EnviroVideo, Box 311, Ft. Tilden NY 11695 or call EnviroVideo 1-800-ECO-TV46 email:



For Further Information Call:

Karl Grossman (516)725-2858
Steve Jambeck or Joan Flynn (718)318-8045



Nukes In Space 2: Unacceptable Risks provides an update on the Cassini space probe with 72.3 pounds of lethal plutonium on board, the scheduled August 1999 Cassini Earth “fly-by” and the consequences of an accident. It reports on NASA’s planned additional plutonium missions and investigates the U.S. military’s aim to “control space” and the Earth below with space-based nuclear-powered weaponry.

Nukes In Space 2, produced by EnviroVideo, is hosted and written by investigative reporter Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York, directed by Emmy Award-winner Steve Jambeck with Joan Flynn as associate producer.

Dr. Karl Z. Morgan, founder of the profession of health physics and former director of the Health Physics Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, states in Nukes In Space 2 that those behind the use of plutonium in space “are very brazen and almost inhuman in their attitude, willing to run the risk of imposing a catastrophe on Earth that man’s never known before, where he cannot inhabit this space on our planet for the next million years…It is inconceivable to me that you would allow such high-risk of plutonium contamination on the Earth.”

Alan Kohn, a 30-year NASA veteran and a long-time emergency preparedness officer for NASA, says in Nukes In Space 2: “The people should rise up and protest this. We should not allow our democratic government to do this to us. It is our responsibility and our duty to prevent them from putting us at risk. We have to stop them. They won’t stop themselves.”

Nukes In Space 2 tells how the Cassini plutonium fueled space probe, launched by NASA in October 1997, is slated to come hurtling back from outer space on August 18, 1999 at 42,300 miles per hour to buzz the Earth less than 500 miles high in a “gravity assist” or “slingshot” maneuver so it can reach its final destination of Saturn.

It presents NASA's own acknowledgement in its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission that if Cassini makes an "inadvertent reentry" into the Earth’s atmosphere during the “flyby,” the probe will break up, plutonium will disperse and “approximately five billion of the estimated 7 to 8 billion world population at the time…could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure."

Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of nuclear physics at the City University of New York, declares in Nukes In Space 2 that NASA could have substituted a solar energy system for plutonium power on Cassini by shaving off just 1 percent, about 130 pounds, from its weight. Former NASA scientist Dr. Ross McCluney agrees and cites a “lack of vision at the highest level of NASA. I think they have another agenda behind-the-scenes.”

The manufacturers of plutonium space systems, General Electric and now Lockheed Martin, the U.S. government’s string of national nuclear laboratories involved in fabricating the systems, and the U.S. Department of Energy, have all been pushing nuclear power in space. There is also a military connection, according to Nukes In Space 2. “Star Wars is the name of the game,” declares Dr. Kaku in this documentary.

Nukes In Space 2 probes the Pentagon’s plan to deploy weapons in space. It reveals a U.S. Air Force report, New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 2lst Century, which states, “In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict…lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, says New World Vistas, there are “power limitations” currently for such weaponry. “A natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space,” it declares.

Nukes In Space 2 explores the U.S. Space Command’s desire to become “master of space” in order to “control space” and the Earth below. It exposes the U.S. Space Command’s Vision For 2020 report that describes the command’s mission as “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment.”

Among others appearing in Nukes In Space 2 are: Dr. Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility; Dr. Ernest Sternglass, professor emeritus of radiological physics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Dr. Rosalie Bertell, president of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health; Harvey Wasserman of Greenpeace U.S.A.; Helen John of the Menwith Hill Women’s Peace Camp; editor Loring Wirbel; Bill Sulzman of Citizens for Peace in Space; and Bruce Gagnon and Regina Hagen of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Nukes In Space 2 also shows how the use of nuclear power and planned deployment of weapons in space are illegal under the Outer Space Treaty.

Nukes In Space 2 follows EnviroVideo’s 1995 video documentary, Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens, which received three major film and video festival awards including the Worldfest Gold Award at the Houston International Film and Video Festival, the world’s largest film and video festival.

TO OBTAIN A COPY OF NUKES IN SPACE 2: UNACCEPTABLE RISKS Send $19.95 +$2(s&h) to: EnviroVideo, Box 311, Ft. Tilden NY 11695 or call EnviroVideo 1-800-ECO-TV46 email: For more information visit the Stop Cassini Earth Fly-by Action Site:


*** Current Cassini Status (from JPL) -- problems

These reports usually report an "excellent state of health" for the Cassini space probe. This one reports about a transmission failure. Note that not being able to receive a transmitted signal from Cassini could be a major problem because if we lost control of it, it's too small to pick up any other way. We can't simply use Hubble to find it, for instance. We can only track it through the signals it sends and we pick up. This report doesn't state where the problem is, but it does make NASA's ability to do everything right that needs to be done right suspect. Of course, so did the Titan IV explosion last August. Some mistakes are bigger than others, but all mistakes show NASA's human side. Humans make mistakes. Groups of humans make mistakes. That is why decent humans don't expect perfection from themselves or others, and thus, they don't threaten 6 billion souls with 270 billion "potentially lethal doses" of the world's most deadly substance (in its most deadly form -- an aerosol), especially when benign alternatives exist. Do they?


Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 08:08:03 -0800
To: "Cassini Spacecraft Updates" (
Subject: Cassini Spacecraft - video feed problem
List-Unsubscribe: (


We are sorry for those people who tried to view the live video feed of the Doppler residuals of the main engine burn. Last minute technical problems prevented us from receiving the broadcast signal. The problem will be corrected for future events.

Cassini Outreach
Cassini Mission to Saturn and Titan


*** From the mailbag: A pro-Cassini viewpoint (+response)

Cassini is part of a whole and can only be considered in that respect. It is not science in a vacuum (so to speak), it is a threat to 6 billions souls, millions of whom will (if Cassini doesn't kill them) grow up to be scientists themselves. Cassini is not good science, it's a threatened assault on humanity.

When reading this, note that none of the incoming letter has been deleted or changed. It is represented by the > signs in the first column, of course.



Thank you for your email. I've interspersed some answers...

At 10:54 AM 12/2/98 -0800, SB wrote: I read, with great interest and attention, your concerns about the NASA Cassini mission to Saturn and its radioisotope thermoelectric generators.

Thank you for reading it.

First I want to assure you that I have no particular axe to grind with anti-nuclear activists. History has shown that our understanding of the potential damaging effects of nuclear power has been inadequate.

Yes, indeed it has.

Permissible doses have dropped considerably over the 5 decades since we began spreading this stuff around -- roughly by two orders of magnitude, which may still be off by another two orders of magnitude for the general population and by four or five orders of magnitude for specific at-risk populations -- there are over 100 million infants alive at any one time, and they are a specifically higher at-risk group, as are AIDS patients, leukemia patients, the poor, the aged, the young, the infirm...

But, the concerns you raise about using the fuel to provide electric power to the spacecraft instruments and flight systems ignore the facts of how the material is packaged and utilized.

No it doesn't. It's a complex system of several layers of containment. I've described it in great detail in a number of the things I've already written and posted at the web site. The main purpose of the containment system is not actually to "contain" the plutonium 238 but rather, to release it -- if it releases any at all -- only at high altitude. This is a very important difference! Even NASA states that 3% to 33% to as much as 66% or even (perhaps, if Lady Luck is against us) 100% can be released, depending on the specific reentry parameters. NASA admits this. They then try to convince us that it's no harm but really, it's a very hard-to-track harm, but the scientific claims for WHY there would be any harm at all from low level radiation are glaringly obvious, I think.

The obvious fact that Saturn is too far away to use solar power is not difficult to discern. Not enough sun can reach the spacecraft at Saturn to provide enough power (Scotty).

Beam me up, Scotty, you're not living in reality. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) European probes are already planned that can go that far, to be launched before the millennium. It's absolutely a myth and even NASA knew it, as proven unequivocally by the D. E. Rockey report on a Jupiter mission which could have been solar (Ulysses). NASA tried to hide this report but you can read it at our web site.

You need to view details of the mission design, both the spacecraft and its power system, and the planned trajectories. The packaging of the plutonium 238 is more than adequate to prevent the dispersion of vaporized plutonium.

Not according to NASA's own documentation... Again, this has been extensively gone into at the web site.

The mission trajectory takes into account any potential problems associated with loss of controllability of the spacecraft, which has happened too often in the past. In case the spacecraft can't be contacted to refine the trajectory, the bias is such that it will pass earth too far away, rather than too closely.

It will then remain in an orbit which is in the vicinity of Earth. Pu 238 has a half-life of 87.75 years. Both statements are of course, according to NASA's own 1995 EIS on the Cassini mission. (You should order yourself a copy, and see for example how NASA misused the 1981 Rockey report, completely misquoting it!)

Also you're ignoring the fact that the containment system has been untested over time -- in a few decades or certainly a few centuries, it may become brittle and useless. NASA admits it is untested in any long term manner (in their 1995 EIS).

This is a major point that takes away significantly from your argument.

No, not at all, unless you think that only the first miss matters since the second one might not matter. The trajectory will be unpredictable and if we loose contact with the probe, not only won't we be able to control its course, but we won't be able to predict it either. The bias maneuver you are undoubtedly referring to is a fraction of a minute of arc right now, if it's even within controllable limits yet. (Inside the degree of error.)

There seems to be an underlying sense that your opposition to nuclear power in general, and specifically on Cassini is rooted in good old '70s anti-nuclear activism base on TLI and Chernobyl, two testaments to our collective ignorance.

TLI? Perhaps you mean TMI (Three Mile Island)? Yes, I oppose nearly every other use of nuclear power I've ever seen. What of it? This is one of the worst and it certainly is the one I've looked into the deepest. And it stinks.

The only real point I want to make is that your argument requires updating to a '90s understanding of nuclear power before it can be given the attention you and others want for it. I would also bring in supporters who understand what is going on.

Like who? I'd love to hear from them.

And what have we learned in the 90's about nuclear power? That accidents have been covered up for years, that radiation studies have been fabricated to produce acceptable results or shelved for decades, that the health effects occur at all known levels, albeit at a lower rate than at higher dose levels, and we've certainly learned that rockets blow up. Titan IV's, to be exact. We've learned that Hanover, Washington is STILL the most polluted site of any sort -- nuclear or otherwise -- in America. We've learned that the nuclear power plants have never provided one watt of cost-effective energy over renewable solutions we could have approached way back when in the 1950's and 1960's when we obviously had the ability to ramrod ideas down American's throats, but we chose the wrong ones to do so with.

And what else have we learned? We learned that cheap energy is the #1 goal of the world if it wants to progress to a greater and greater degree of civilization, of health, of commerce, of intellect, of society, of anything. It all starts with cheap energy. Sure, we can burn billions of barrels of oil making CD-ROM's and videotapes and transporting them all over the country to satisfy people's need for culture, but we could just as well pass everything down the fiber optic cables we knew 20 years ago needed to be installed into every home, and then we could close every Blockbuster Video, and close all the record companies as well, and the software stores too. All that is wasted American Energy that could go into medical breakthroughs like better and better prosthetic devices (with imbedded computers) and better and better surround-sound stereo systems for the home.

You can't really be arguing that we've made proper decisions over the past few decades, are you? Do things really look that good to you? As species after species goes extinct in this country, as development crowds out thousands of small ecosystems, as Mobil and Exxon merge as if they aren't big enough to run roughshod over every environmental action anywhere (like the tobacco companies do, or did you miss that too?) -- as all this happens, you can't really be telling me we are living in an enlightened age, are you?

As schools institute pass-regardless-of-grade policies, as public schools decay and private schools languish so much they want to steal the public school system's money, as television allows each of us to witness nearly 20,000 murders (some of them for real, and even live) by the time we are old enough to vote, as the government pulls back on the meager gains made by the fledgling environmental movements of the 60's and 70's by adding layers and layers of red tape through which one must jump to learn the truth (just look at what Karl Grossman had to go through to get the D. E. Rockey report referred to above, if you don't believe me) -- as all this goes on, you try to tell me we live in an enlightened age? How many hundreds of millions of people are starving today, do you know? Politics, you say? Well then, isn't it time we "enlightened" humans figured out how to all just get along, in the immortal words of Rodney King (and I mean that)? Yet we don't. We don't get along, we don't trust each other, we don't tell the truth to each other, we don't respect each other, we don't even try to teach each other. So, what's better?

My position is that we'll be forced to use nuclear sources for energy in the future. I can't see any viable alternative that will be sufficient to meet the world's energy needs.

No offense meant.

I am not offended so much as greatly saddened. To think that there are energy needs which sustainable development could not meet is simply wrong. I have studied enough plans and schemes to fix things, to firmly believe some of them provide the answers, whereas the current policies do not.

I know an inventor who came up with a brilliant device for containing oil spills. The oil companies refused to use it because insurance would cover any loss, and carrying the things would be tantamount to admitting an accident will happen sooner or later.

I know a doctor, who tells me that preventive outpatient skin surgery at an early age can save thousands of lives by simply paying for the removal of moles. Skin moles, otherwise known as beauty spots, cause cancer. Why, no one knows, but science statistically knows that they do. But will most insurance plans pay for it? No. They'll pay hundreds of thousands to try to treat a cancer, but nothing to try to prevent one. What kind of health policy is that?

I hope you will reconsider your views on Cassini, because for one thing, it's pretty clear you haven't actually read NASA's own reports, because they really back me up on the issues you've mentioned. On other areas of discussion, of course NASA's views and my views are very different, but I hope you noticed that to a large extent, I've answered your email with NASA's own values, from their own reports.

Thanks again very much for writing, and I hope you, too, are not offended by my response. You are clearly giving thought to the Cassini issue, but I feel you are unaware of many of the facts which NASA misrepresents to the public. NASA acts like a marshmallow: If you push them on one issue, like the containment inadequacies, they will tell you a few pounds of Pu 238 released into the upper atmosphere is harmless. If you tell them it is far from harmless, they'll simply tell you it won't be released. And if you press them hard on both issues at once, they'll bring in their "ace in the hole", namely, that the chance of a flyby accident is very slim. But all three arguments fail when taken together; one does not lean on the other as NASA pretends, but rather, each proves the weakness of the other argument, because none is strong enough. Plutonium can be released, a reentry accident can happen, and the danger to the public is extreme from any such release. And a successful flyby in August, 1999 isn't even the end of the danger.

NASA expects that the average citizen will look no deeper into the issue than, say, you have. I believe it is important for each of us to understand the full impact of allowing NASA to use pu-238 based nuclear energy solutions.

First of all, it allows them to set up reprocessing plants which can have military implications. Second, it is based on a solution that the rest of the world has no need for, but if NASA worked at solar solutions or better battery solutions, either one could have "trickle-down" impacts on Earth. Third, the entire nuclear industry is based on secrecy and has helped build, here in the U.S. and around the world, a police state. What other power plants need armed guards and protection from terrorists? Only nuclear plants, because only nuclear plants are "reasonable" (big enough) targets for terrorists. And easy enough targets.

NASA's nuclear policies have secrecy written all over them -- there are nearly a dozen other nuclear missions in various states of planning right now -- did you know that? Probably not, because NASA has been saying "no other missions are funded" whenever a cub reporter somewhere asks them -- but that word "funded" is the key -- there is somehow funding for the initial research and planning, and that is indeed going on. And furthermore, the Pu 238 reprocessing plant is operating, and it should be shut down.


Russell Hoffman



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Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


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