STOP CASSINI Newsletter #154 -- July 17th, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

To: Subscribers, Press, Government Officials

Subject: A letter to the leaders and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo: STOP CASSINI #154

Date: July 17th, 1999

Time Frame: Cassini is scheduled to do the flyby of Earth on August 18th, 1999 (August 17th -- one month from today -- in the USA) near Africa.

Today's Subjects:

(1) A letter to the leaders and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

The following letter is intended to serve as an introduction to Cassini and the dangers of the flyby, and readers are encouraged to use it as the basis of their own statements to leaders and media around the world:


To: President Laurent-Desire Kabila and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo
From: Russell D. Hoffman, Concerned United States Citizen
Date: July 17th, 1999

A letter to the leaders and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

There is a clear and present danger to your country. In the dark of night, on August 18th, 1999 (just over a month from now) there will be a dangerous nuclear space probe streaking across your heavens. It is going so fast, it will take only a single minute to cross your entire country.

Tomorrow (Sunday, July 18th, 1999) the first of three risky "Trajectory Correction Maneuvers" (TCMs) will occur which are each designed to push the probe closer and closer to Earth -- closer and closer to your country!

If the probe -- known as the Cassini space probe -- dips a mere 600 miles (a small fraction of a degree of arc, even a few hours before the moment it is supposed to pass overhead) -- it will enter the upper edges of Earth's atmosphere. If that happens in a shallow reentry such as would occur near you, it would stream plutonium, possibly cutting a swath thousands of miles long as it slows and burns and descends. Even a minor accident today, or any time between now and just a few moments before the probe actually does the flyby of your country, is all it would take for there to be a reentry.

International treaties require honest debate on the subject of threats to other country's environments, and this is a grave threat to yours. But I do not think every Democratic Republic of Congo national has been sent a fact sheet by NASA! In fact, is this possibly the very first time you have heard of this thing that is coming your way? If so, you may find what I say incredible, but it is all very real (and you have one month to prevent it, maybe less!).

As I write this, you are in grave and mortal danger. This space probe, this thing which will be streaming across the heavens just above your country, is by far the single most dangerous thing mankind has ever flung at or near anybody, ever. The amount of plutonium on board if divided out among all the people of the world and physically placed in everyone's lungs, would wipe out the entire human race many times over! Of course, it will not happen that way. There will be instead, a global dispersal, concentrating more in some areas than in others.

In fact, if a reentry occurs, all that prevents an easily documentable genocide (thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps even millions or tens of millions of dead) is that the plutonium will be spread around -- something known as "the dilution solution to pollution". Spreading out the plutonium into very fine particles means that cancer deaths cannot be properly attributed to the thing that caused them. But it doesn't prevent them, especially in a place where the population density is high.

Plutonium is not destroyed or incinerated (burnt to a harmless radiological state) in a reentry accident. Rather, it is turned into a vapor and spread around.

Plutonium can mutate a human cell at the atomic level. So very fine particles spread throughout the environment does nothing to prevent cancers, leukemias and birth defects from the plutonium. It only spreads those deaths around and makes it hard to blame the proper polluter. But the fatal health effects show up scattered among the population, albeit, at lower and lower rates the more it is spread around (the deaths are harder to identify, but the pain is no less real).

The full spectrum of health effects show up unequivocally at minute particle sizes in the neighborhood of a tenth of a microgram -- that is, 1/10,000,000th of a gram! Cassini has about 23,000 grams of plutonium 238 and Pu 239 on board. Imagine that radiological burden spread by the winds across the Democratic Republic of Congo! Rains can bring the plutonium down from the troposphere in a matter of minutes, instantly ruining valuable cropland and condemning those who live there and make their living farming the land to horrible death by cancer and leukemia, and condemning their children and their children's children to crippling deformities and other birth defects. It is unlikely there is anything more harmful to human life than vaporized Plutonium 238.

NASA knows this, of course, which is exactly why they have tried to design the probe's containment system to protect THEM from lawsuits and blame, by having the plutonium most likely to be released at very high altitude. However, that still spreads the plutonium around and besides that, in reality the plutonium vapor might be released in a streaming plume that stretches all the way to the ground. NASA doesn't know what would happen, they can only hope for the best, having failed already to properly plan for the worst -- they really didn't need to do this at all! And they could have arranged for the flyby to be over a less populated area than your country with its 50 million inhabitants! (They claim it was "as it would happen" but I dispute that!)

August 18th, 1999 at about 5:30 am your local time, Cassini will do its flyby of Earth. A flyby is a maneuver in outer space whereby a rocket, probe, satellite, or some heavenly body flies very close to a planet or moon, thereby gaining speed.

The probe will eventually (if we allow this flyby to go through) reach Saturn.

Cassini has already done two flybys of Venus to gain speed, and now another flyby is coming up, this time of Earth, over your heads in particular, and now the probe is moving extremely fast -- nearly 70,000 kilometers an hour. So fast that the "containment system" which NASA claims is extremely good, which is supposed to protect YOU from the plutonium if a reentry should occur, is utterly untested. It's effectiveness is highly questionable.

Cassini was launched in 1997 amid much fury here in the States because of the danger from the probe. However, no one (outside NASA) knew back then exactly where the flyby would be. We now know it will occur over your country and other countries near you.

Should the probe reenter Earth's atmosphere instead of flying by at 43,100 miles per hour (or thereabouts), it is possible that 400,000 Curies of Plutonium 238 will be deposited in a wide (or narrow) swath straight across the heart of your country. Plutonium 238 is highly radioactive -- it decays quickly (half-life of 87.75 years) which is why NASA uses it to produce electricity for the probe (they could have used solar panels, actually).

The first of 3 TCMs (Trajectory Correction Maneuvers) occurs in a matter of hours, on July 18th, 1999. You can ask NASA, and if they tell you the details, you will see that that tiny little maneuver alone could spell your destiny. For it actually PROPELS THE PROBE EXACTLY IN YOUR DIRECTION! (Links to NASA web pages which describe part of this atrocity, but ignore the details, are given below to help you check all the things I am claiming.) Indeed, if you don't believe me, ask NASA the following question:

What will happen if this particular maneuver (the maneuver is called "TCM 10", with TCM 11 and TCM 12 coming up in a few weeks) is executed for a few seconds or perhaps minutes longer than it should be, and all subsequent attempts to communicate with the probe fail? Where might the probe be aiming if that happens?

There is a possibility it will be aiming such that it will come down into your country!

You can complain to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, but they will assure you these things are safe, as they do at their web site. But it's not true! The "RTGs" are not rugged enough for all of them to survive MOST ACCIDENT SCENARIOS! So you are looking at a potentially horrendous radiological burden for your country if this thing goes off course towards Earth! Your country is at great risk until the final hours, when, if all has gone well up to that point, the probe will have too much forward momentum to dip down into the atmosphere. The closest point of approach to Earth will be at around 0 degrees longitude, just below the equator, in the Gulf of Guinea. It will be heading from West to East. It will pass over other neighboring countries too, in the seconds before and (hopefully) after passing over you. At the speed Cassini is traveling it will take only about a minute for Cassini to hurtle over the Democratic Republic of Congo, traversing about 700 miles above you.

Cassini was originally going to be at just 312 miles above you, or even closer! But in a political maneuver to thwart our ability to stop NASA entirely, they have dragged the height up to a little over 700 miles now. The risk is still too great; your country will be devastated and a plague permanently set upon you if Cassini descends into your land.

All it takes to stop this is -- possibly -- ONE bold Nation protesting it in the United Nations! Won't you step forward, as probably you are the country with the greatest risk (as I do not have access to the supercomputers and years of programming necessary to calculate the values exactly, I cannot tell if a larger country further away is more at risk than a smaller one close by to the "flyby" trajectory, but I believe your country's size and the fact that you are right smack under the flight path and the "fall zone" just past the closest point of approach, makes your country a place of grave danger.) It behooves you to try to prevent this!

Here is a NASA web page about the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators. It misrepresents the dangers and implies that the containment system could survive a reentry aimed right at YOU:

Here's their physical address:

Space & National Securities Program
U.S. Dept. of Energy
Mail Stop NE-53 GTN
Washington, D.C. 20545

That web page will NOT tell you, for example, that if a reentry accident occurs, 3% to 33% to perhaps 66% or even 100% of the 400,000 Curies of plutonium WILL be vaporized. It will not tell you that the minimum expected vaporization is 3%, according to NASA themselves. Nor will it tell you that greater quantities are actually more likely. They won't mention that the reason a 3% minimum release is certain is because the RHUs (Radioactive Heater Units, with about 4,000 Curies altogether (a huge radiological burden!)) are CERTAIN to vaporize if there is an accident. And lastly, they won't tell you about the particle sizes that will be created -- those are tiny things, much smaller than a "sure lethal dose". In fact, they are expected to range in size around 10 microns (from 5 to 58 microns generally, with the arithmetic mean around 10 microns). They will not tell you that that is the ideal size to lodge in your citizen's lungs. You have to dig much deeper to pull all that information up, but I assure you of its veracity.

Please visit my web site for more information such as I have just told you. We have excellent references and scientists who you can talk to about the technical details of the dangers.

I am suggesting that you take this matter immediately to the United Nations, because NASA is utterly biased. After all, I have fought Cassini for 2 1/2 years now in order to prevent this maneuver which you are about to be threatened with (I only learned more recently, exactly what part of the world would be under the probe's path). But I can only do so much -- in fact, nothing at all! U. S. citizens are powerless, because our Government is vast and a small band of activists and scientists (who are among the best in the world!) (and who-knows-how-many ne'r-do-wells mixed in to disorganize our efforts) cannot effect a change in the policy that produced this madness.

We can only plead for help, and I am doing that herein, since your country's ecological and physical health and well-being is on the line most of all I think. I am asking that you help me to force the redirection of Cassini to a trajectory which will cause it to impact the Sun, so that it can never again threaten Earth. (Even accidents AFTER the flyby can result in Earth impacts, perhaps decades or centuries later, when the "containment system" may have become brittle and even more useless than it already is.)

Redirection can easily be done by reprogramming the onboard computers.

Every day we wait we are more threatened.

Thank you in advance for whatever you can do. I realize, from a look at what has been reported regarding your country's current list of problems, that this may seem "low on the list" to you. And I understand that while your country is already fighting International condemnation for possible excessive punishments for minor violations of press laws by some of your own citizens (I'm referring to reports about Jean-Fidele Mamba and Freddy Loseke Lisumbu) this may not appear to you to be a good time to attempt to prevent NASA from one more of the many threats to your peace and tranquility. But the threat is real and unless we redirect the probe as far away from Earth as possible, or at least prevent the TCMs from being executed, your country is running a grave risk, and I hope you will try to prevent it from happening.

A reentry could devastate vast areas of your country and ruin the health of millions of your people. America has promised only a small retribution to all countries outside the U. S., of just $100,000,000.00 in total payments if an accident happens. I urge you to recognize that NOW is the time to prevent this potential tragedy to your people. There are many here in the United States who have done all we can to stop this event, but we have reached the point where we clearly cannot stop it. Now we must turn to you, whose lands and people are probably the most threatened.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, California
(Additional contact information appears below)

Here is the URL of NASAs Cassini web site:

This NASA web page shows the trajectory and time of the flyby:

Here's my own web site which has dozens of articles by scientists opposed to the mission as well as literally thousands of links to other activists and related information sources:

(2) Web articles opposing Cassini; pre-launch:

Some of the following items are also available at our web site, or will be:

This URL is for a report written prior to the launch of Cassini, from Voices of Central Pennsylvania, Inc. It reminds us that, along with Marin County, California, "The Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the cancellation of the Cassini mission."

Need for "Adversary Science" -- the Cassini Example by John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. and Egan O'Connor. Fall 1997:

A Scientific Critique of the Accident Risks from the Cassini Space Mission By Michio Kaku, Ph.D.:

Article by Kai Petzke titled "Cassini: Science at any price?":

"Land mines at the cellular level":

Karl Grossman article in Christian Science Monitor:

Dr. Helen Caldicott was invited by employees at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA to speak on Earth Day, April 22, 1999:

EnviroLink News Service posted an article by William Thomas called The Cassini Gamble:

Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law on Cassini:

Network of the German Peace Movement (Karl Grossman article translated by Regina Hagen):

What It Is and Why We Protested by Patrick Carkin in

NASA's Russian Roulette By Ligia Giese:

Risking the World: Nuclear Proliferation in Space by Karl Grossman:

To: The American ambassador, Mr. T. Dornbush: Cancel Cassini:

Plutonium ALLüberall: by Jürgen Scheffran, IANUS, Institut für Kernphysik (German):

New Jersey Greens web page in opposition to the launch:

Cassini quiz by Kathy Spallone:

Traprock Peace Center and the Nuclear Abolition Task Force (Franklin/Hampshire CPPAX):

Article about Cassini by Robert Sterling, Editor of Konformist (

Peace Action's Peace Empowerment Program August 1997 article: Cassini: Death From Above?:

Gambling with the devil by activist Mark Elsis:

... That's all for now! Don't forget to visit the #1 web site against Cassini:

(3) Use the Internet to protest Cassini (again)!

This report by Paul Festa, Staff Writer at CNET, October 5, 1997, 6:55 a.m. PT reminds us that the Internet was the fuel for the storm of protest against the launch, and should be used again for the same purpose to protest the flyby. Of course, our opponents are much more skilled in using the Internet now.

----- FROM: -----

"Net drives debate on NASA launch

"As NASA prepares to launch a nuclear-powered space probe on a ten-year mission to Saturn, opponents and supporters of the mission are calling the Internet a major force in driving debate over the controversial mission."


(4) Collections of Cassini links, pro, con, and neutral:

The SpaceViews web site has the biggest collection of Cassini-related links we have seen in one place:

Jane Prettyman's The Real News web site is also full of pro and con links and useful articles about Cassini:

NASA's Cassini: The Rough Road to Saturn by "R. Dan Woolman dba In Search Of" supports Cassini, has many links:

Various Cassini links from the Federation of American Scientists' web site (pre-launch):

CNN web site links page for Cassini controversy:

(5) SORRY! Launch Disaster! - THE END:

STOP CASSINI web page full of links which we happily stumbled across:

Take a chance launching yourself into space (animation):

(6) Some web sites that have published material from the SC newsletter editor:

Finding ourselves on the web. (We make no apologies for the company we keep and thank every one of them for their support!):

This Cassini article by the editor of this newsletter has been translated into German by Marcus Hammerschmitt:

Same article is also available here:

Rob's Place (nearly all newsletters are posted here):

Konformist (various Cassini articles and debates, including this):

The NoFlyby web site reproduced this article by YH&OS:

The Millennium Group:


New Testament (same statement as above entry):

Daily Revolution:

Rob Cherwink posted this Action Alert in 1997:

Our newsletter #17 can be found here:

(7) What you can do today to stop the Cassini flyby of Earth:

To learn about the absurd excuses NASA used to launch Cassini in 1997, ask them for the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission, and all subsequent documentation. At the same time, be sure to ask them for ANY and ALL documentation available on future uses of plutonium in space, including MILITARY, CIVILIAN, or "OTHER" (just in case they make a new category somehow!). To get this information, contact:

Cassini Public Information
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
(818) 354-5011 or
(818) 354-6478

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!

Here's NASA's "comments" email address:

Daniel Goldin is the head of NASA. Here's his email address: or

Here's the NASA URL to find additional addresses to submit written questions to:


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.

(8) Subscription information

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Published by Russell D. Hoffman electronically.
Written in U.S.A.
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First placed online July 18th, 1999.
Last modified July 20th, 1999.
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