STOP CASSINI Newsletter #105 -- March 4th, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

To: Subscribers, Press, Government Officials

Subject: Science does not exist in a vacuum -- STOP CASSINI #105

Date: March 4th, 1999

Time Frame: There are only 112 days left until the last appropriate moment of redirection of the Cassini probe - the flyby of Venus, 7 weeks before the flyby of Earth.


Here's a detailed discussion of the moment of reentry, with all sorts of stuff Mr Woody Smith should know (but clearly doesn't).

Russell D. Hoffman, Founder and Editor

Today's Subjects:

A discussion about the heat of reentry ********************************

There are three RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) on board Cassini. Each contains 18 GPHSs (General Purpose Heating Units). In a reentry accident the RTGs are expected to break away from the rest of the probe. However, it is very possible that at least one of the RTGs will get stuck on the probe during reentry, depending almost entirely on how the probe is tumbling or spinning when it reenters. Reentry takes only seconds, but the ablation of the various layers of containment during that time is the crucial issue: A "quick" reentry might last as little as 7 or 8 seconds, a "long" one, perhaps 25 or 40 seconds. Additionally, it is possible that the probe will "skip" along the atmosphere, resulting in significantly longer periods of ablation.

Normally, that is, in a reentry accident where all three RTGs break "cleanly" away from the probe, it is expected that the outer layer of the RTG units will melt away (ablate) or break away and release the GPHS units within. As this happens, it is possible that the GPHSs will collide into each other or other parts of the melting, rapidly decelerating probe (I don't know if anyone's ever used the term "explosive deceleration" to describe anything before, but that certainly sounds fitting here). It is possible the GPHSs will be broken open, spilling the GISs (Graphite Impact Shells) within them (two per GPHS), which are each encased in a CBCF (Carbon Bonded Carbon Fiber) sleeve with CBCF disks at either end. These are not supposed to be released at all; that is, the GPHSs are expected ("hoped" is probably a much better word) to normally ablate little enough so that the GISs remain within, in their CBCF sleeves and disks. However, it is expected that some of the GPHSs will NOT be able to contain their GISs, and those GISs will experience significantly more ablation. They may even ablate all the way down to the Fueled Clad, of which there are two in each GIS. The fueled clad has a very thin "protective" layer, and that layer has a vent in it anyway, so if the plutonium is liquified, it may be able to entirely seep out the vent hole! No information about the vent hole has been made available by NASA, but I have read that the vent system may itself have had manufacturing problems.

So there are really three areas of concern: First, those RTGs or GPHSs which somehow get "hung up" on the probe on the way in, Second, those GPHSs which hit other parts of the probe or other GPHSs and break open, and Third, the duration of the problem in the first place.

NASA has taken these differing scenarios and done a calculation they call a "Monte Carlo Simulation" to determine all the different ways the probe can come back, and what the RTGs, GPHSs and so on are likely to do. At first, they calculated that (see page 4-51 of the 1995 EIS) "For all the reentry cases studied, about 32 to 34 percent of the fuel from the three RTGs is expected to be released at high altitude." It further states (in the same paragraph), "The fraction of the fuel particles released during reentry estimated to be reduced to vapor or respirable particles less than 10 microns ranges from 66 percent for very shallow reentries (8 degrees) to about 20 percent for steep (90 degree) reentries. The remainder of the fuel is released in particulate form, with about 4 to 7 percent in the 10 to 6,000 (0.004 to 0.24 in.) size micron range and the remainder in large pieces greater than 6,000 microns (.24 in.) in diameter."

Then, in the 1997 FSEIS NASA reduced the "expected" flyby reentry release amount from 33% to just 3%, but they did it simply by redetermining the likelihood of the probe tumbling one way or another! This is not science, it is a death-lottery!

If all goes according to NASA's complicated plan, the system MIGHT -- MIGHT -- work (more on that below). But if ANYTHING goes wrong -- any one of the three steps towards doom I outlined above or any combination of them (RTG hung up, GPHSs collide with things and break open (remember they are coming in at 42,300 MPH and will quickly change speeds relative to each other, so they can collide with each other at tremendous speed! (Bullets, for reference, travel at "merely" about 1200 miles per hour, give or take a few hundred MPH depending on the type of bullet) And third, the probe can experience two types of extended reentry scenarios, namely, shallow, and the worst possible of all, a "skip" scenario.

So the numbers NASA presents about temperatures where they have been tested to are meaningless--utterly meaningless. Those temperatures WILL be greatly exceeded for some (or all) of the GPHSs. It is so nearly inevitable, that NASA cannot predict NO RELEASE in any "typical" reentry accident! 33%, 3% -- even 100%, but not zero.

Unless NASA gets perfectly lucky with every one of the 72 GPHS units inside the three RTGs, something is likely to go wrong. NASA's best guess at the moment is that perhaps only three of the GPHSs will release their contents at high altitude. NASA used to assume (1995 EIS) a 33% release but that didn't bother them -- they were quite willing to go ahead with the mission despite that high release rate that they themselves had predicted!

But even one GPHS being released is a human health catastrophe. Each GPHS holds almost exactly one pound of plutonium dioxide, in the proportions we have discussed often in this newsletter.

So when NASA says the things they say, like the hollow assurances of Mr. Woody Smith, it's just a complete, fabricated, barefaced lie. It's not what will happen, it's not what is scientifically credible to expect, and it's not even what their fine print says will happen!

The heat of reentry can be far, far higher than NASA can accurately predict. They have NEVER done any experiments that would tell them the actual heat of such a reentry. The closest they have come is presumably the study of the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) temperatures (quoted below). They may have upped that a little over the years, but they cannot study what happens during a hyperbolic orbit-gone-wrong, because they haven't done any of those on purpose, and probably if they did have such an accident, they don't have devices to measure those sorts of nearly instantaneous temperatures anyway!

So it's all guesswork, but it is made utterly clear in even a casual read of NASA's documentation, that the containment system relies as much as anything else, on chance and good fortune to work. Further, it is abundantly clear that the entire purpose of the containment system is not to protect the environment from plutonium at all, for it does that very poorly! It is to protect NASA from being proven guilty for having caused deaths around the world. In short, it hides the murder of innocent civilians, for this is part of a military operation. There is little that is civilian in Cassini's power source, although everything else on board Cassini is probably just the result of unfortunate, duped or blind, scientists doing what would have been honest science had it not been powered by RTGs instead of solar solutions. For some their only crime (so far) was stupidity. Indeed, if any activist wants to be effective, these scientists, the ones with experiments on board Cassini itself, are the ones we most want to cajole into "coming out" and speaking against -- not the mission, it would be hard for them not to love at least their own portion of the bird -- but they too should despise the power source that was forced upon them! They most of all MUST know the reason why it they are being forced to use RTGs. For they cannot possibly CARE where they get their juice! RTGs only provide a few hundred watts of electricity! They don't provide anything any other source of electricity wouldn't also be supplying. So they (the scientists whose experiments are on board Cassini) cannot possibly PREFER the RTGs! Some will claim RTGs have a greater reliability than Solar, but the whole thing's a crap-shoot up there, and Smaller Faster Cheaper covers that argument nicely all by itself, to be frank. Send up two probes. What's the problem, right?

The problem is the "hidden" agenda. The military thinks it needs RTGs, such as may have been on board the Titan IVA that blew up August 12th, 1998, less than a minute after launch. It was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer because otherwise, it might have pile-driven itself back into Florida. (We're not talking about launch accidents right now, though, but that one would be about the worst possible.)

Besides the plutonium in the RTGs used for thermocouples to make electricity, NASA always neglects to mention there are also approximately 128 RHUs (Radioactive Heater Units) on board Cassini, each with about 2.7 grams of plutonium (mostly Pu 238). ALL ARE EXPECTED TO FULLY ABLATE in a reentry accident. All are expected to be fully vaporized. 100% of 2.7 grams times 128 is about 3/4ths of one pound of plutonium right there! NASA never mentions this stuff at all, but that's no reason why we shouldn't. The RHUs are toast in a reentry accident. (Before then, they're like little toasters.)

Lastly, be aware that in the end, NASA will fight tooth-and-nail the idea that a little plutonium in the environment is bad anyway! Last time, some time before the launch, they trotted out a certain scoundrel named Dr. Otto Raabe, president of the corporate-backside-kissing Health Physics Society, who proclaimed that not one death (or some such fantasy) would occur, even from a FULL RELEASE of the plutonium!

Be ready for this madman. He or one just like him will be presented by NASA's friends soon.

--rdh, who else?

From the History Books: ICBM reentry temperatures revealed **************************************

From: SPACE WEAPONS: A HANDBOOK OF MILITARY ASTRONAUTICS compiled and edited by the editors of Air Force Magazine First Edition, published 1959, page 64:

" the tremendous speeds at which an ICBM nose cone travels the heat is enormous, estimated at 14,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature of the air flowing over the nose cone. The nose-cone material itself must be kept much cooler or it would burn up like a meteorite."

This is for a comparatively slow reentry, normally well under Earth's escape velocity of about 25,000 miles per hour. Cassini will be traveling at approximately 42,300 MPH. The containment system has not been tested at anything near this speed, ever. Ablation is due to heat friction. Heat from friction increases with the cube of the velocity.

Also, I don't have the complete reference handy, but the concept is important:

Johns Hopkins-1 "multiple skip trajectories that may have excessive ablation"

If the probe "skips" atop the Earth's atmosphere for a while before completely reentering, then we can expect a full release.

My view of the NASA tests is of course, that they are totally inadequate. "Terminal velocity" is artificially chosen, for instance (it actually depends on ambient temperature, barometric pressure at the time of reentry, thickness of the atmosphere at the time, etc.) The probe can strike something at a faster speed than anticipated, it doesn't have to break apart exactly as hoped, and one or more RTGs can get "hung up" in the rest of the probe. And so forth. Very risky.

NASA's "Woody" is utterly mad. And I'm not entirely Mr. Happy myself!


NASA's tests are simply inadequate: ******************************************

NASA did run some tests, but all such tests were entirely substandard and have no bearing on what might happen during a reentry. They are really more relevant for launch accidents and the final impact with Earth of whatever makes it to the ground, but they don't tell much about what might happen at high altitude, really.

For example the overpressure tests would be virtually useless because the GPHSs were not tumbling, clanging into each other, and experiencing incredibly rapid pressure fluctuations AND tremendous heating all at the same time. They ran fire tests as well, but nowhere near hot enough! Indeed, the GIS material melts at 4,497 degrees Fahrenheit (1995 NASA EIS, page 2-14) yet on page 2-19, they refer to tests conducted to 4,280 degrees Fahrenheit! Naturally, they passed these tests. The melting point of the plutonium dioxide itself is 4,352 degrees (page 2-17 of the 1995 NASA EIS) so obviously, the tests weren't quite hot enough to test the idea that melted plutonium might simply flow out the vents (used to release the helium produced by the decay of the plutonium) and be vaporized. And the plutonium dioxide boils at 6,998 degrees Fahrenheit, well under the heat of even a normal orbital reentry, let alone a misjudged hyperbolic (flyby) reentry!

NASA will tell you the best protective layers are the same stuff missile nose cones are made of (1995 EIS, page 2-17). But NASA neglects to mention the difference in thickness of the two samples! Much of an ICBM nosecone can be albated in its relatively slow (compared to Cassini) reentry, prior to its explosive end-of-flight. But the GPHSs are very thin, and there is less margin for error. NASA also neglects to mention the difference in heat friction at the vastly different speeds of Cassini versus any missile. Heat from friction increases with the cube of the velocity so there is much to worry about. And note, that NASA also fails to mention that the entire containment system might be USELESS if the reentry occurs a decade or two from now, a perfectly plausible scenario outlined on page B-4 of the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement! Why might the containment system be useless? Because it might have become cracked and brittle with age! Outer space generally ages things at an accelerated rate; alpha particle bombardment from the plutonium itself doesn't help. NASA has this to say about this particular problem: "The performance and behavior of the materials used in the RTGs after many years (a decade to a millennia) in a space environment is highly uncertain". What part of "this is guesswork" does anyone not understand? NASA's Woody Smith makes up claims that are simply not supported in NASA's Own Numbers.

NASA has made up a wide variety of numbers, and run some tests to just below the point of failure and called it a success. In some cases, they tested to the point of failure, and presented *those* numbers as "proof" that the containment system was good enough, when in fact, those exact same numbers indicate just the opposite! (Such as this: "Small fragment tests with 18-g (0.64 oz) aluminum bullets at velocities of about 555 m/s (1,820 ft/s) can cause a breach when striking a bare fueled clad", (1995 EIS, page 2-19) which clearly indicates the relatively low velocity at which the units failed. 1,820 ft/s is about 1240 miles per hour. A lot can happen as they slow from 42,300 to "Terminal Velocity" whatever that is.

The pages referenced, as well as many others from the 1995 EIS, are online at our web site. (Some time after we posted that material in 1997, NASA also (finally!) posted it.) All readers are entitled to demand that NASA immediately send them printed copies of the various Cassini Environmental Impact Statements for their own perusal (and related material; Cassini is neither first nor last in a long string of nuclear space environmental assaults).

NASA is threatening the health of all the world's citizens, and so is Russia, and other countries will feel welcome to treat the world this way if we let NASA follow through. And their flimsy explanations are not worth the paper they are printed on, but it is a public document which no one should be denied the right to own for themselves. And own it they should, so they can see for themselves that NASA has NOT justified their actions, but merely created a flimsy stack of excuses for their murderous behavior. No NASA statement, no James Randi statement, no Otto Raabe statement, nothing has excused or explained what they are doing. Scores of honest engineers, scientists and medical doctors, of the highest moral character and degree of professionalism, good Americans who have served their country well -- not only are their opinions ignored, but NASA pretends they do not comprise the baseline of the opposition to Cassini! Yet every thinking human being, who has looked into the matter even the least little bit, can see that at the very least, a full and honest account of the risks has NOT been provided! A full and understandable explanation of what the risks are has NOT been presented to the public by ANY NASA SPOKESPERSON AT ANY TIME.

This, virtually everyone knows. Perhaps not everyone can recite off the top of their head what GIS stands for, or GPHS, or even RTG, but the dangers of plutonium, which NASA's Woody makes such light of, are entirely, utterly reasonable. There is much to fear from Cassini, from what it represents, and from who backs it.

The engineers, when pushed beyond the ability to deny the flimsiness of their containment system, will turn to the medical quacks who will proclaim plutonium healthy, or at least harmless, in any "possible" quantity. And all of them will excuse themselves for this behavior on the grounds that it's some sort of National Security issue, which it is nothing of the sort. We will all be far more secure without ANY threats from something like Cassini, so there is no "National Security" issue here at all, except as it relates to the shame, horror, and guilt associated with this particular threat or, should the worst occur, with the event itself. The people that would pass this crime off on an unsuspecting and innocent public (many who would be affected, have not even been born yet) have lost all touch with their role in serving humanity, whether it be to serve America well (which they are not doing, though they may be trying)) or to serve the whole world -- in no case, have they served anyone but their employers, and their own myopia.

The crimes that are committed in the name of Cassini -- the lies, the coverups, the innuendos ("Don't believe everything you read on the Internet!" screams Woody Smith), the false leaders who are NASA's appointed opposition voices -- it is a wonder that Americans would lie so willingly to their fellow Americans. It is a wonder that NASA would risk ruining this great country's reputation and honor on such a dastardly deed -- one in which chance plays such a huge role in deciding the fate of a large portion of humanity. It is a wonder indeed, that NASA would so gleefully risk genocide while proclaiming to have the highest goals of the human race in mind at the time -- perhaps indeed, that is the greatest sin Cassini commits -- namely, that it pretends to honor science whilst making a mockery of the whole purpose OF science, which is, of course, the betterment of society. Science does not exist to support a military agenda!

-- rdh




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:

Cassini Public Information
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
(818) 354-5011

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:

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

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! Ask them why they don't link to our web site. Ask them why they haven't got rid of Daniel Goldin, the glassy-eyed fool. Ask them why they haven't sent you YOUR copy of the 1995 EIS for the Cassini mission! Ask them anything, but demand an answer! YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT NASA IS DOING TO YOUR HEALTH.

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.


Please send any news directly to the editor at the email address given below.

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
STOP CASSINI Newsletter -- nearly 100 issues of mirth, merriment, and mind-numbingly depressing facts about NASA and other horrors


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First placed online March 4th, 1999.
Last modified March 5th, 1999.
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