Subject: Lies and Statistics -- STOP CASSINI #98
Date: February 21st, 1999
Time Frame: There are 123 days left until the appropriate moment of redirection of the Cassini probe - the flyby of Venus, 7 weeks before the flyby of Earth.
This issue contains a variety of remarks made during the creation of a new international petition against Cassini which will be presented here and elsewhere shortly, as well as some more correspondence with those who would misrepresent the good, honorable scientists who have spoken out against Cassini over the years.
Russell D. Hoffman, Founder, Editor and U. S. Citizen
Unless he's referring to the silly idea that the latest flyby height increase makes everything safe again for 6 billion Earthlings, but nobody can be that confused, can they?
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WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 19 Feb 99 Washington, DC
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4. CASSINI: ANTI-NUKE ACTIVISTS OPPOSE AUGUST FLYBY. Cassini will swoop by on 18 August to pick up speed for the Saturn trip (WN 29 Aug 97). Along with the usual bad science, opponents who want it redirected to the Sun posted a warning from Nostradamus on their web site. He predicted in 1558 that "The year 1999 seven months, From the sky will come the great King of Terror." He must have used the Julian calendar, they say, and clearly was referring to Cassini. James Randi, author of "The Mask of Nostradamus," says he won't be hiding under the bed. NASA puts the possibility of hitting Earth at "less than one in a million." Bob Mitchell at JPL, the Cassini program manager, says it's much, much less.
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To: Robert Park, APS (Editor, "What's New" firstname.lastname@example.org)
From: Russell Hoffman, Founder and Editor, STOP CASSINI newsletter
Re: An answer to James Randi re Cassini -- and to you, too
Regarding this item you published, [here is] an answer to Randi's Cassini comments, along with the next item that was in the newsletter which you might also enjoy (or not, depending on the strength of your bias). [Both items can be seen in newsletter #93.]
What does Bob Mitchell offer as proof of his opinion, anyway? Something scientific? I doubt it. If he has scientific data to back such feelings, he ought to present it to the public -- and especially to the good scientists you have denounced who oppose Cassini on health reasons and no other grounds, certainly nothing to do with old Nosie, whom Randi -- not us -- is certainly obsessed with, more than anyone else I've ever seen.
Russell D. Hoffman
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We eagerly await an answer...
To: Roger Herried, RADBULL
From: Russell Hoffman, STOP CASSINI newsletter
Date: February 17th, 1999, 3:30 pm
Re: Plutonium what?
I'd just like to point out that in an article you sent out today the word "Plutonium" is taken to mean Pu 239, but this year, Pu 238, as in Cassini and many other military/pseudo science devices, is the "hot" isotope! (As discussed in your own newsletter recently!)
So please, if you can, get the word out to people that Pu 239, with its 24,000 year half-life, and Pu 238, with its 87.75 year half life (NASA value; others put it at similar values around 87 - 88 years) are two very different characters. Pu 238 is really only a severe danger for a millennia or so, hardly "forever" (well, at the rate we're going, maybe 1000 years IS forever!). Either type of plutonium is most dangerous as an aerosol, particularly in the 5 to 10 micron size. However, similar-sized particles of Pu 238 are about 287 times more radioactive than a Pu 239 particle of the same size! In other words, taking "pure" samples of each (freshly separated, that is) Pu 238 releases about 287 times more alpha particles per unit of time.
This is all very important, right now, because Cassini contains 72.3 pounds of about 85% Pu 238 and 15% Pu 239 (in dioxide forms; launch weight) and will be flying by the Earth in August, 1999. At 43,000 miles per hour, a reentry accident, regardless of the rarity NASA may claim, would be a catastrophe (regardless again, of anything NASA may claim).
Plutonium does not incinerate in a flyby reentry accident, it is instead "vaporized" -- turned into an aerosol -- with a size range generally from 5 to 58 microns with 10 microns being the average (according to NASA's own 1995 Environmental Impact Statement, that is the size breakdown for a previously observed Pu 238 release from a reentering rocket, in 1964).
We are organizing a petition drive to stop the flyby by redirecting the probe during the Venus flyby, which occurs about two months before the Earth flyby, in late June, 1999. We are hoping for international cooperation to petition the United Nations. More information on this effort will be made available shortly on the various web sites of the "anti-Cassini" movement, including mine (listed below).
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Russell D. Hoffman
Founder and Editor
STOP CASSINI newsletter
STOP CASSINI web site
Green Party of Canada NoFlyby Fund
Any donations should be sent to
Green Party of Canada Noflyby fund
Green Party of Canada in Victoria
516-620 View Street
Victoria, B.C. V8Y3G8
Contributors to this fund can receive in Canada a political contribution tax receipt for which there are significant tax credits. A contribution of up to $100 may receive a 75% deduction on the tax payable. The deduction is 50% for each dollar contributed over $100 up to $450 and 33% for the next $600.
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(The author of this newsletter has presented the above announcement as a public service and does not receive funding from any Green Party.)
...You must understand, how important a little plutonium, radium, whatever is, to get anything done at all! It's used for sensors, thermal control (2.7 GRAMS of Pu-238 in each RHU (Radioisotope Heater Unit, for example, and there are nearly 130 RHU's on Cassini and NONE of them are expected (by NASA) to survive a reentry!) and a zillion other things.
So you can't just ban it all. You need to set an actual, numerical limit. You need to call for that, because if you don't it's impossible. Cassini had more than 400,000 Curies of Pu on board when launched. One Curie is less than 1/400,000 of that -- practically a millionth! So I'm not saying don't be afraid of one little Curie of Pu -- by all means do -- but you can't stop every use of everything dangerous, especially if it has proven (to the vast majority of scientists, for example) uses for mankind. This is why real numbers are so important to work with over "ideals". Calling for an end to war is a great idea. Stopping the death of one person is a fact. Let's stick to facts.
Here's one more clause I cannot help but have trouble with as well:
FROM A PRELIMINARY VERSION OF THE PETITION
THAT as Cassini moves closer to Earth the need to take immediate action becomes ever more imperative, and END CLIP
That is not entirely accurate! Why? Because once the Venus flyby has happened, then the probe will be targeted with far less margin of error towards a spot away from Earth, than it is now. In truth, I would really say that you could say that the danger GETS LESS as we get closer and closer to the moment of the flyby (providing, of course, NASA is telling the truth about its current position and trajectory). That is because it takes a bigger and bigger disruption from its present course to cause an intersection with Earth as time goes on, not the other way around.
And they give me hell for this, let me tell you, but the however is that the bias correction maneuvers push the probe towards Earth! What if an extended burn occurs? Only a few seconds' extra burn -- someone should ask NASA using FOIA if necessary, just how much fuel they expect to use to correct the so-called "bias" they are putting in/will put in during the Venus flyby.
You all know about the "bias", right? They aim the probe "millions of miles" off from Earth until about 10 days before the Earth flyby, then they push it, in a series of controlled firings, closer and closer to where it will go by us at the designated flyby height.
I worry about the bias correction firings going on too long. Dr. Louis Friedman claims that's an absurd worry even though my understanding is that other probes have suffered just that sort of thing! (Clementine, I believe, did that, to be exact.) [And even though his military employment history (presented in newsletter #77) clearly indicates there is NO WAY he can speak freely -- or honestly -- on the subject. And that there is NO WAY he even needs to feel guilty for lying; in fact, it's his patriotic duty (but oh, how I do wish Clinton would free Friedman's tongue!).]
My biggest worry is whatever the debris field around Venus is, frankly. Every planet has some sort of a debris field of stuff that's been captured by its gravitational field and is spiraling in to the surface. We hardly know the size of our own debris field, so I doubt we are very sure (within several orders of magnitude) how big Venus' debris field is. 99% or so of Earth's debris field is manmade, but about 1% or so isn't. I figure Venus must have at least a few million little rocks flinging around it too.
That's why I'm not keen on describing the danger as "ever increasing". It has moments of (for me) "sheer terror", and there is every day a risk that the probe will hit something out there and become disabled, explode into pieces, etc. But each day that we get closer to the Earth flyby AFTER the Venus flyby, I for one will be feeling less and less concerned, except that even a day before the flyby, even perhaps an hour before it, there can STILL be an accident that will cause a reentry! I am not discounting that. Even after the Earth flyby, accidents that disable our ability to control the probe will cause it to fling "aimlessly" about the solar system, and while they may "tend" not to cross our path, that doesn't mean the probe can't, even 100 or 200 years from now or more at which time there is no way their stupid little "lawyer's friend" containment system will do diddly-squat to prevent an aerosol release. And in 87.75 years, half the Pu-238 is still around.
However, it is on that day, as we approach the moment of the actual flyby, although there will still be a grave and serious risk, and although there will be no lessening of the severity of an accident, still, the CHANCES of an accident will finally begin to approach NASA's mythical one-in-one-million.
Anything prior to that which causes NASA to lose control of the probe will leave it in an orbit that "tends" to be around our own, as the petition now correctly states, and I challenge NASA to prove, using real data from all previous known space flights, that statistically there is any reason to think their "one in one million" figure is accurate. At this stage of the game it's a totally wild-assed guess.
I hope these comments are helpful to all.
Russell D. Hoffman
Internet Glossary of Statistical Terms
These percentages are INCLUDING the Oxygen and are the weights at launch time:
Pu 236: 0.0000010 (half-life of 2.851 years)
Pu-238: 70.810 (half-life 87.75 years)
Pu-239: 12.859 (half-life 24,131 years)
Pu-240: 1.787 (half-life 6,569 years)
Pu-241: 0.168 (half-life 14.4 years)
Pu-242: 0.111 (half-life 375,800 years)
Other: 2.413 ("small amounts of long-lived actinides and stable impurities)
(SOURCE: NASA, 1995 EIS for the Cassini Mission, Table 2-3, Page 2-18)
One other thing that is on my mind, is that perhaps the biggest thing is that NASA lied about what the value of their containment system is, and the accuracy of their predictive capabilities - those are all lies. I think we all feel NASA hid the truth and made it APPEAR that they were in keeping with International guidelines. However they were in fact misstating everything from how good their containment system is to the likelihood of an accident to the size of the problem that might occur if an accident happens. It's one lie after another. I hope our document somehow makes that clear! -- rdh
Below is an example. This statement, from the United Nations Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources In Outer Space is violated by Cassini:
CLIP FROM: http://www3.un.or.at/OOSA_Kiosk/treat/nps/npstxt.html
(b) Radioisotope generators shall be protected by a containment system that is designed and constructed to withstand the heat and aerodynamic forces of re-entry in the upper atmosphere under foreseeable orbital conditions, including highly elliptical or hyperbolic orbits where relevant. Upon impact, the containment system and the physical form of the isotope shall ensure that no radioactive material is scattered into the environment so that the impact area can be completely cleared of radioactivity by a recovery operation.
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The containment systems are NOT designed to withstand much of anything -- 3% failure -- over 2 pounds of plutonium, NASA's latest dream figure, is not anywhere mentioned as being permissible, nor should it be. Nor is a failure causing 33% of the plutonium payload to be released mentioned as permissible within the terms of the treaty, but in 1995 NASA would have happily flown with that percentage, a clear violation of the treaty. And even NASA admits all sorts of manners where there can still be a 100% release!
Any amount released is possible and right now, NASA expects (their word) a 3% release in the event of an accident! And upon impact, the containment system (what's left of it) better not hit a hard surface like a NASA scientist's head, or the treaty is violated again, and (again) so are all of us. (Note: A flyby is a hyperbolic orbit.) -- rdh
You do realize, I hope, that the reason the flyby height is raised is to undermine our efforts? I think you should state, if you are going to put their new number in (extremely accurate to two decimal places now!), that the ORIGINAL flyby height was just 325 miles above the surface of the Earth -- less than 250 miles from the atmosphere, and that the incremental raises in that height have been a red herring to the media to indicate NASA's "concern"! And that although raising the height reduces the CHANCE of an accident, doing so does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to reduce the SEVERITY of an accident, should one happen. --rdh
To: James Randi (JamesRandi@compuserve.com)
From: Russell Hoffman (email@example.com)
Date: February 19th, 1999
Dear Mr. Randi,
It would be nice to receive an answer from you to my response to your statement, for publication in my newsletter and at my web site.
If you would like to learn more about the full truth about Cassini before speaking further, I suggest spending some time at my web site. It is a fact: Many scientists have, and have complimented me on the web site, and offered material for posting. Some agree, some disagree, but your essay didn't do jack one way or the other, all it did was pass on some NASA falsehoods.
Personally, I think you've been duped, as I state in the newsletter. Learn the truth, and then we'll see if you're man enough to admit you've been had.
STOP CASSINI newsletter now in its 97th issue
CANCEL CASSINI by JUNE 24th, 1999!!!!
To Cancel Cassini start by asking NASA for the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission and all subsequent related documents (on paper, please!). Tell them you need it IMMEDIATELY (members of the world press should do this too). All citizens of the world are ENTITLED to these documents because of the global threat Cassini poses. Here's where to get information:
Tell them Russell Hoffman, founder and editor of the STOP CASSINI newsletter, sent you. I bet they love to hear that!
NASA states that they do not have the resources anymore to answer most emails they receive. Liars! They have $13 billion dollars to play with. They can answer the public's questions. At least, ask them one specific question: How many letters did they get opposing Cassini today? (And tell them you oppose it too!) If each reader asks them that...
Here's NASA's email address:
Daniel Goldin is the head of NASA. Here's his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's the NASA URL to find additional addresses to submit written questions to:
(Note that it looks like possibly a temporary URL assignment, but you can always start at http://www.nasa.gov.)
They imply at the web site that written comments are more likely to get answered -- quicker than emailed comments! Someone should welcome them to the 1990's before it's too late.
Long-time readers know lots of questions to ask them; BE SPECIFIC! Ask why they misused the D. E. Rockey report in the 1995 EIS. Ask them why they reduced the EXPECTED plutonium release percentage from 33% or more to just 3% with no change in technology from the 1995 EIS to the 1997 Supplemental EIS, while claiming they have 25+ years's experience with these things! Ask them why they thought there was a Nostradamus connection among the anti-Cassini crowd, which is actually almost entirely scientists, and their supporters like myself. (See newsletters #92 and #93). Ask them when they last launched plutonium from the Cape -- attempted or completed, civilian or military. Ask them how they know Cassini's software is Y2K compliant. And when the next plutonium launch will be. Ask them everything; you have a right to know. Ask them why they won't spend enough money to answer people's emails, if they are a civilian agency whose #1 purpose, according to their own charter, is "the expansion of human knowledge". Ask them why Dan Goldin is still their boss. Ask them why he won't invite me or better yet, the scientists who have appeared in my newsletter for a presentation of our concerns to their staff, followed by whatever questions they can muster, all presented live on the Internet (they have the technology, they used it for Sojourner videos, remember?).
Be sure to "cc" the president and VP and your senators and congresspeople, too.
Always include your full name and postal address in all correspondence to any Government official of any country.
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Please post these newsletters EVERYWHERE! You can -- and should -- send them to news media too! Please tell your friends and neighbors and Internet buddies to subscribe! These words can have power, but only if they are passed on to many others!
Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
Founder & Editor
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