STOP CASSINI Newsletter #91, February 5th, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #91, February 5th, 1999

Sent to: Subscribers, Press, Public officials.

Subject: Panel Warns NASA: A Crisis Is Looming -- STOP CASSINI #91, February 5th, 1999


Today, one of our local papers has reported that things are looking terrible at NASA because of a hiring freeze, and cutbacks. Safety could suffer, they warn. They don't know the half of it!

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, Stop Cassini newsletter

Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #91, February 5th, 1999 ******

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

*** June 24th, 1999: A "hot" date with Venus

Hans Karow, who has been doing some wonderful activism up in Canada (which we will be presenting more about, soon), wrote to remind us all that on June 24th, 1999 (according to NASA), Cassini will do a flyby of Venus. Dr. Michio Kaku has said that that would be an ideal time to redirect the probe to a trajectory which will cause it to spiral towards the sun.

Hans writes:

We don't have much time, only a little more than 4 months until June 24/99 for redirection. On top of every newsletter you should please write how much time still left since publishing date.
Well, there it is. THAT is the date we all should be concentrating on. THAT is the date there should have been an international debate about Cassini by. THAT is the date they want us all to forget. If we think instead only about the flyby, we will MISS the actual best date to do something about it!

Note that if we miss this opportunity, Cassini could be left in a trajectory that intersects Earth's own orbit! Even after the flyby, if anything goes wrong with the probe and we lose contact with it, it will be impossible to know where it will travel, but generally, things fall towards the sun. NASA describes failures prior to the flyby as having orbits that tend to be in the vicinity of Earth's own orbit, and after the flyby, they tend not to -- but nothing is definite, since all the planets and everything else out there affects the orbits of everything else; the location of small objects quickly becomes unpredictable.

On page B-14 of the 1995 Cassini EIS, NASA notes the following: "The total Earth impact probability distribution is the probabilistic sum of the short- and long-term Earth impact probability distributions. A 1,000-trial Monte Carlo simulation was used to perform this probabilistic summation."

I find it fascinating that NASA can determine its publicity-required one-in-one-million odds with only 1,000 simulation runs. Amazing. Such powers of statistical interpretation. Such guesswork. Such hokum. Such Chutzpa.

*** Safety review board has bad news

This is the first portion of a report from the North County Times, February 5th, 1999.


Panel Warns NASA: Crises Looming

Cape Canaveral, Fla. -- A safety oversight panel warned NASA on Thursday that it's headed for a crisis because of cutbacks.

Space shuttle safety, while satisfactory for now, could suffer in the future as a result of inadequate job skills and other shortfalls in the work force, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said in its annual report to NASA.


If even the manned missions are that close to danger, I wonder how much concern NASA has now for Cassini and its dangers to humanity (which they have always downplayed the importance of, to begin with)? Nearly everyone at NASA who was a frontline person regarding Cassini during the launch debate has left or moved to other positions in the "company". There are new faces now, who will either weather the storm of protests (ignoring our pleas), or be replaced like the rest, eventually. It's a thankless job, of course, explaining to people that it's OKAY for NASA to risk poisoning us all. I wonder if they actually believe it? I wonder if they've studied NASA's own reports, which clearly indicate that 3% to 33% to 66% to as much as 100% of the plutonium payload could be vaporized in a flyby reentry accident? (It depends on which report you read, which number you get.) NASA's minimum EXPECTED loss is about 3%. That's about 2 pounds of plutonium 238, or, about as much as was lost in 1964 when NASA's SNAP-9A failed! So safety is relative now, I guess. That accident may have caused thousands, tens of thousands, or perhaps even millions of deaths -- there is no way to know, because proper measurements of the exact spread of the vapor were not taken at the time of the accident, so that long term health studies could be done. (It is known that it came down approximately over Madagascar, which has (or had) one of the richest levels of biodiversity in the world).

Yet for Cassini, the same level of loss as SNAP-9A suffered -- the exact same amount of plutonium -- is considered a successful reentry! 3% of 72 pounds is about as much as SNAP-9A had in total!

This is safety? Our government can explain this somehow? Let's see them try.

*** Comments about comments about Carol's comments

To see the comments Carol Rosin wrote which this responds to, please visit our web site where they will be posted seperately. Her comments expand (or reword) what was presented in newsletter #89; these comments are applicable to her comments in #89, specifically to her comments regarding peaceful uses of space.

URL where Rosin's comments appear:

URL for newsletter where Rosin's original comments appeared:

To: Susan Lee Solar (
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" (
cc: Carol Rosin ( (will also be posted on the Internet)

Re: Carol Rosin's email to you.

Date: February 5th, 1999

Dear Ms Solar,

I would like to thank Carol for such a lengthy and complete answer to your inquiry (which I will post shortly on the Internet), but must say that I have several areas of concern.

First and foremost, I believe that there are little battles that need to be fought along the way. True, it would be nice to completely refocus the space-weaponization industry into a useful space-based industry, but to think that there is enough of that sort of use to go around without any level of defunding is, I think, asking a bit much. Why? Because, I guess, there are 6 billion people here on Earth.

Space can help us, yes, surely, but there is a limit. For example take her suggestion that training videos could be provided via satellite! THIS IS ABSURD. The proper route for such things is through a ground-based fiber-optic system, worldwide. Now note, that the military "gave" us the Internet as well, so this is really no "slam" on the military! But the fact is, that space-based information distribution systems are invariably nondemocratic; that is, there is one broadcaster for each 10s of millions of people. That is not democratic.

Case in point: CSPAN 1 and CSPAN 2. The cable TV industry brags that these are their "gifts" to America. BUT THEY ARE NOTHING OF THE SORT!!!

Seeing our Congress in action is a basic human right, not a gift!!!

With the Internet, that is, with a ground-based system, there could be CSPAN 1, CSPAN 2, CSPAN 20, CSPAN 200, CSPAN 20,000 and so on -- any room, can have a camera and a microphone set up, and anyone could watch -- THAT's democratic!

So that -- communications -- is NOT something the world should waste any money on trying to put into space. As for the arguments about "remote locations" those do not hold. Granted, it is more costly to lay down fiber-optic cable (NOT co-ax!) everywhere. So are electricity lines costly to lay down, but everyone in America has them! They have phone lines! Cable TV! We could have a high-bandwidth information feed as well.

Honestly, I see it as a basic right. Of everyone, not just Americans, to have free access to ALL the world's information -- not just what some broadcaster wants us to hear, but anything, anywhere. (True, parents must watch what their kids choose to access, but that is true anyway. There is so much filth now just on TV at prime time that parents must -- or should -- keep their kids from!)

My second objection is to the idea that space is so important in curing environmental problems. Finding them, yes, it can help us spot forest fires, maybe even catch midnight dumping, etc. etc. Eye-in-the-sky has always been billed as a tool for keeping criminals alert. But actually fixing the problems? That is the job of concentrated R&D on the actual problems -- it will NOT result from some "spinoff" from the military/industrial/space complex.

I have met many people in the space industry too, as Carol has, but the ones I tend to meet do not work at the top levels. They are, one might call them, the worker bees of the space industry.

And what I have learned from them, is that although they love the idea of space, it doesn't really matter THAT much to them! For example, building a comsat or something. Sure, it's exciting. But you know what? So is building a mag-lev rail system. So is building a renewable energy solution for a community. So are a lot of things. These space workers are not fooled; they know they will NEVER get into space -- except maybe, for $5,000 or so, as ashes in a lipstick container, after they die, and those only stay aloft a few months before a fiery reentry and "re-incineration" in the Earth's atmosphere.

As to communicating with the military directly, I've tried it. I gave a rather rousing (if I do say so myself) speech last fall, in San Diego, California, opposing the homeporting of nuclear aircraft carriers in our bay here, and against nuclear carriers (and subs, and weapons) in general. They listened. Carol is right, they listened. Three men sat stone-faced as some three hundred people showed up at a public hearing, but you know what? Nothing changed. We heard from retired veterans, teachers, mothers, grandmothers, school principals, scientists -- yes, quite a few of those -- and on and on. The local press, a Republican bastion of blatant propaganda (called the San Diego Union-Tribune) reported NOTHING about the meeting. 300 people. All silenced. In a room we were all asked not to tell the fire martial about how many people were there. Air conditioning off. Doors closed. On and on it dragged. What good was talking to them directly? Well, the next day I called the Naval HQ in Washington, D.C. at the suggestion of the local activists, a wonderful group called Environmental Health Coalition.

The Navy guy I spoke to there, after I asked why they would not simply stop using these awful "weapons" (I consider a nuclear aircraft carrier a weapon of mass destruction, with or without bombs) because of how dangerous and dirty, useless and expensive they are. He said that the only way they (the Navy) would stop using them, would be if we stopped funding them.

So who do we turn to now? Our lovely politicians, and we all know the runaround we get from them!

So while I agree with Carol about the need to prevent the weaponization of space, I think it is preposterous to expect that all the space-based hoopla that goes on now can be adequately replaced with civilian applications. There will have to be some level of defunding. I did not use to think that way, and I would like, even with a lower (but more properly directed) level of funding, to see colonization of the moon and then (later) of Mars, but people orbiting the Earth -- there is nothing out there! Just a vacuum, and a whole lot of very fast-moving space debris.

That is the other problem I wanted to make you aware of. Space debris is old junk that space travelers put in space and have no use for. There are literally millions of pounds of space debris in orbit around Earth right now. Some of it is nuclear. Nuclear engines, mostly put there by Russia. Plutonium generators, put there by both Russia and the U.S. And many assorted plutonium thermal heaters and other small units. It's all just junk now, but circling Earth at tremendous speeds, 17,000 miles per hour being about average. At that speed a piece of debris the size of bb (.3 cm, or about a tenth of an inch in diameter) has the kinetic energy of a bowling bowl traveling at 60 miles an hour!

That is why right now, the thing that needs to be done, is that all nukes must be banned from space. This would go a long way towards stopping the weaponization of space because guess what? MOST WEAPONS NEED VAST QUANTITIES OF ENERGY!!! Where does the energy come from? Well, nukes are real good for providing large and reliable quantities of energy, if you aren't very worried about the waste.

Russia has launched dozens of nuclear reactors. They are now in an orbit with a decay period of 400 to 1000 years. Some of them are leaking primary reactor coolant into space. That stuff will be radioactive far longer than the 400 to 1000 years it will take to settle to Earth. It's a coming nightmare that Newton could have predicted. What goes up a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth, will eventually come back down.

Criminals! All the "scientists" and military warriors who did it will of course, be long dead when these "weapons" start killing.

Why did they launch these awful things? The vast majority of these nukes provided Russia with a few months -- that's all -- of energy to run spy satellites against the United States. Wasted effort - -we didn't attack them, did we?

Russia continues to launch nuclear payloads, and in 1996 one with a little over half a pound of plutonium 238 (mostly) came back to Earth shortly after launch, and broke up over Chili or Bolivia. It's lethal payload was probably distributed all over the globe -- or maybe only in the Andes, among the peasants. I have not been able to find any reliable information on their so-called containment system, but I suspect it is a lot like ours, which is designed to protect NASA from litigation, but it hardly protects society from plutonium.

Lastly, I want to mention that the Cassini plutonium space probe is right now on its way towards a flyby of Earth. NASA launched it despite protests in October, 1997 and it will do a flyby of Venus in late June, a few weeks before it does the flyby of Earth. The Earth flyby is extremely dangerous and should not be permitted. People all around the world, in Canada, Holland, Germany, and elsewhere, are trying to stop the flyby of Earth. The flyby of Venus is the best time to stop the flyby; it is a unique opportunity to redirect the probe into a trajectory that will take it out of an orbit that endangers humanity, and into an orbit that will eventually spiral into the sun.

Now, please understand that lofting plutonium into space to get rid of it is a lousy solution to the disposal problem, but this particular 400,000 Curies (roughly) of plutonium is already out there -- we managed to survive the launch (the very next Titan IV rocket blew up in a spectacular explosion last August!).

I, and thousands of others around the globe, hope that Cassini will be redirected during the Venus flyby to NOT brush past Earth (where it will, if all goes "right", according to NASA, close to within 495 miles of the surface of our planet (traveling at 42,300 miles per hour) before rushing off towards its next planetary flyby, with Jupiter in December 2000 or January 2001).

That is something we can all do right now, and I hope you will consider having your group join us in protest of not just this particular nuclear threat, but all nuclear space threats. NASA is right now planning nearly a dozen more launches of civilian plutonium payloads, and probably many more military plutonium launches.

Thanks for writing to us,


Russell D. Hoffman
Editor, STOP CASSINI newsletter now in it's 90th issue
Webmaster, STOP CASSINI web site

*** Found on the web: A link we like to see
************************************** ( is one of the biggest "conspiracy" web sites; we appreciated finding this link to our web site a while back:

Here's what we found there:


Stop Cassini Website

"Russell Hoffman has been sounding the alarm on Cassini longer than practically anyone. Probably the single best repository of Cassini information on the WWW. No one can afford to be ignorant of this issue. Click NOW!"


This makes up happy, and the web page links to most of the other Cassini activist sites as well.


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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