STOP CASSINI Newsletter #161 -- August 3rd, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

To: Subscribers, Press, Government Officials

Subject: Sample letter to editors & a response to Jackie Giuliano: STOP CASSINI #161

Date: August 3rd, 1999

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

Today's Subjects:

(1) Sample letter to the editor from Hans Karow


From: Hans Karow
Reply-To: ""
Subject: Letter to the Editor August 3, 1999
Date: Tue, 3 Aug 1999 12:33:42 -0700
X-Mailer: Microsoft Internet E-mail/MAPI -
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Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
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Status: U

I have sent following letter to some newspapers, here is the one to our local newspaper.

Anyone may use this letter in his/her area and sign with his/her name or refer to me.


Oliver Chronicle
36083 97th Street
Fax 498 3966 E-mail:

August 3, 1999


Dear Editor


NASA launched the Cassini space ship in October 1997 on a seven-year mission to study the planet Saturn, purportedly in the hope of "understanding the birth and evolution of our solar system." But by using 72.3 lbs. (32,8 kg) of radioactive Plutonium (Pu) to run Cassini's 740-watt scientific instruments, NASA created the possibility of unspeakable disaster for the people and other life on our own planet.

NASA plans to hurtle Cassini past Earth in the evening of August 17th for a so-called "gravitational assist" (fly-by) at a velocity 42,300 miles/h. NASA claims that the odds against a calamitous mishap, namely the space ship entering our atmosphere is one in a million. But there is important evidence showing that NASA has seriously underestimated the possibility of human or equipment error -- and the potential danger of any accident during the fly-by maneuver.

As has been officially reported, 18 different types of malfunctions may occur, including electrical short-circuits, meteors or space debris striking the space probe, and erroneous ground commands. If the craft does veer from its course even slightly, Cassini could plunge into Earth's atmosphere and burn up like a meteorite, and the Pu would "rain" globally as an invisible vapor.

No quantity of Pu inhaled has been found too small to induce lung cancer. It has been estimated that ONLY one pound of Pu-238, if uniformly deposited in the lungs of the world's population, would be enough to induce lung cancer in everyone on Earth. Pu-238 will be radioactive for more than 800 years (14% of Cassini's Pu consists of Pu-239, being radioactive for over 240,000 years). Pu cannot be destroyed by any means. Pu does not disappear in the environment. It is not water-soluble. As a dust it easily becomes airborne. Once dispersed into the environment it can mix with organic substances forming compounds that can enable it so be taken up in bodies of all live species: plants, animals, and humans over and over again. Pu does harm every time it changes its living host.

In the July 1997 Safety Evaluation Report (SER) major flaws in NASA's Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) were exposed by the Nuclear Safety Review Panel in its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) about Cassini's safety. SER noted at least three major discrepancies:

(1) NASA claimed the Pu containers were "designed to withstand re-entry" into our atmosphere. In fact, the SER noted, these holders were NOT designed to withstand the heat of an accidental re-entry at the planned speed of 42,300 mph (64,000 km).

(2) NASA claimed that almost none of the Pu could become airborne in any accident. In contrast, the SER noted that nine kilograms could become airborne in breathable form, the most hazardous state.

(3) NASA estimated that in the event of an accident the Pu could cause 120 fatal cancers. The SER estimates that "tens of thousands" such deaths could result from a major accident. SER noted "the probability of a single inhaled particle inducing a cancer," which NASA ignored in all its EISs.

Moreover, even the SER fatality estimate could fall far short of the truth. The SER fails to mention that each kilogram of Pu contains TRILLIONS of radioactive atoms. The number of fatal cancers might be many times greater than tens of thousands.

NASA, the U.S. and other countries involved with the Cassini mission are ignoring the information in the SER.

NASA claims the odds of Cassini entering Earth's atmosphere are one in a million, which was stated by a NASA official that this number was kind of picked out of a hat, but according to renowned physicist Dr. Michio Kaku that figure is based solely on the chance of an impact with a meteor in outer space. Meanwhile, far greater and more likely risks are posed by mishaps such as lost radio contact or misfired rockets. Dr. Kaku calculated the chance of a Cassini Mission mishap is about 10 percent.

Right now Cassini is heading toward Earth with a speed of 42,300 miles-per-hour. Scientists expect that a solar eruption, possibly the most severe this Century, will happen anytime between now and January 2001. A solar eruption during its last highpoint cycle in 1989 knocked-out power for 6 million Canadian households and businesses. Such an impact on Cassini would fry its communication's systems. In short, NASA has deceived the public to the real risks of an accident, NASA's safety record is abysmal, and the dangers in this case are extremely high.

Cassini's re-entry could be the worst manmade environmental disaster in history.

Safe alternative solar technique and nuclear free fuel cells could have been used instead of the deadly Plutonium as a source for electric energy (not for propulsion).

What can we still do? It is essential we all demand that at least one leader of a one country intercede in this misguided situation. Redirecting the probe in another direction is possible until shortly before the scheduled fly-by. The Cassini Redirect Coalition (CRC) drafted a petition and it calls for heads of state or other national leaders to make demands in the United Nations and in the International Court to stop the Cassini Earth fly-by. Call your local MP (Jim Gouk, 1 800 667 2393) and Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy (613 995 0153) and express your concern by also referring to the CRC's Petition tabled in the House of Commons on May 25, 1999.

For verification of above facts check
or contact CRC at
Tel./Fax (250) 498 3135, E-mail:

Hans Karow
Member, Cassini Redirection Coalition (CRC)
Tel./Fax (250) 498 3135, E-mail:


(2) Sandra Dawson takes a vacation

Hans Karow tried to contact Sandra Dawson, but when he called her number:
(818) 354-1240
there was a message saying she will be on vacation until August 11th. It gave this number to call:
(818) 393-0070

There, he got this number:
(202) 358-1727

There, he got this number:
(202) 358-0313

And there, he got this number:
(202) 358 0290

And there, he gave up and got back to his farm work.

(3) Gee, you would think this guy almost read one of my newsletters:

This writer of the next piece, Jackie Giuliano, has misunderstood or misrepresented many things about the problems with Cassini, aside from giving the flyby speed as 36,000 miles per hour when it is in fact going to be 43,100 miles per hour (also reported as 42,300 mph), and he indicates the watts available from the RTGs as "500 watts or so" when it's actually closer to 750 watts. (A possible explanation for these anomalies appears later in this introduction.) He also ignores the possibility of a FULL release of the 72.3 (given as 73.2) pounds of plutonium and assumes only a 9 pound release, presumably because the SER uses that figure. But a FULL release is certainly possible.

He claims that "considerable sacrifices" would be needed for Cassini to be a solar mission, but he does not seem to understand that those "considerable sacrifices" are really just minor engineering challenges which the Europeans have already solved for missions which go just as far from the sun as Cassini! After all, even David Grinspoon admitted that Galileo, launched 10 years earlier to explore Jupiter with two RTGs on board as compared to Cassini's three, could now have been a solar mission. So what was the rush then? I wonder if this writer also wrote in favor of that mission, using the same excuses? Hmmmm?

He frets about the money, but Cassini's billions represent only a few week's worth of America's beer money, or even just a fraction of the money we throw away as perfectly edible food each month! The writer talks extensively about how DS1's (Deep Space 1's) recent failures don't correlate (in his mind) to Cassini's potential failures, blithely reminding us that newer technology isn't always better, but of course, that is a typical NASA-supporter trick of narrowing the specifications down to where they can't see the similarities. For example the writer talks about Cassini having "capable people" controlling it, actually thus implying that DS1 did not! But no! According to the author, since DS1 is testing "new technology" it's really no wonder they can't aim a camera! Well that makes a lot of sense -- NOT. Just because you are testing something new doesn't mean you would forget which way to point a camera! It was a mistake! Mistakes happen! It is NASA's job to minimize the consequences of those mistakes, and NASA has not done that with Cassini, or with the proposed RPS power sources with 3 to 7 pounds of plutonium in each one. These are all fundamentally too dangerous, and for most missions, replaceable.

As for the author's assurances (after, he tells us, he spent 20 years working closely with JPL and NASA) that there is no military connection to Cassini, that flies in the face of five DECADES of DOCUMENTED connections, which we've discussed in numerous STOP CASSINI newsletters, such as giving the origins of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) which, according to a 1959 transcript of Government hearings, were developed from Russian concepts, mainly for military purposes (in other words it isn't even our technology!). And it flies in the face of Karl Grossman's classic book, THE WRONG STUFF, with over 700 references to Government statements, news reports, technical journals, FOIA documents and other sources, which argues unequivocally that there is a sinister military connection to Cassini and other NASA nuclear launches. It also flies in the face of the funding arrangements for space nuclear projects which is clearly closely related to military uses, and of course, lastly, if flies in the face of logic as to where America's military priorities lie (and I do mean lie). After all, if the RTGs are safe enough for Cassini's flyby, what's a few spy satellites too for that even more vital cause, "national security"? These folks would do ANYTHING for "national security"! So if RTGs can pass muster for science, you better believe they are being used for "national security"!

Sadly, I suspect the author of the following piece is well aware of the military connection, and sees it clearly despite his hollow assurances otherwise. Otherwise, I must assume he is a dolt.

In the end, he dismisses the whole problem of RTGs with this: "Sadly, NASA is not motivating its engineers to develop solar technology for deep space probes since radioactive power sources have always been readily available."

Rather than stepping forward and helping me motivate NASA properly, he gives his assurances that we should all sleep well the night of August 17th -- August 18th, 1999, and not worry about the 400,000 Curies of plutonium. Just relax, as NASA risks explosively misdirecting Cassini into Earth's atmosphere where, when vaporized, the plutonium will be turned into particles whose average size is 10 microns -- the ideal size for lodging permanently in the human lung. But this writer tells you the chance is "remote" so sleep well. Not to worry, the 300 Billion (or thereabouts) "potentially lethal doses" are harmless, since according to this writer, only about 35 of 40 billion of them might be released in an accident.

If you haven't guessed, I suspect this article was dusted off from the time of the Galileo launch, because that one was about 30,000 miles per hour, and used two RTGs for about 500 watts of power. If I'm right, it would just go to show that these generic excuses would be applied by these pro-nuclear space proponents at ANY level -- whether its 400,000 Curies as with Cassini, or 264,400 Curies (Galileo), or 17,000 Curies (SNAP-9A, in 1964, with NO containment system!), or 44,500 Curies (Apollo moon missions -- including Apollo 13) -- whatever. 400,000,000 Curies (to get rid of nuclear waste, or just to power more experiments) -- it wouldn't matter to this guy!

The Anne Frank quote is totally out of place of course, an obvious attempt to show the author's compassionate side, which is generally missing from his failure to mention leukemia and birth defects. He only mentions "cancer" once, which many people still think of as an old person's way to die, but in the event of a reentry accident, Cassini will kill children as well. He does not write about the nausea of chemotherapy, but only the glory of learning something about the "ringed planet".

He dismisses the dark side in one quick sentence, simply admitting it could happen. To him, that's okay. It's just peachy, because we might learn something about the ringed planet. The Galileo mission could be flown today with solar for sure, and he hasn't even learned enough to rewrite his document so it isn't obvious where it came from, but let's risk 10s of millions of cancer deaths (but call them "only" tens of thousands). Nice guy, eh? He's a Ph. D., sad to say. He can't show me the science that proves the 130 RHUs on board Cassini (Radioactive Heater Units, which he doesn't mention at all) will NOT incinerate if Cassini reenters Earth's atmosphere, releasing their 3/4 pounds of plutonium. He can't possibly show me that, simply because deep within NASA's documents, they admit that in a reentry accident, the RHUs are smoked toast!

Despite this fact, he never mentions that the absolute minimum plutonium release if a Cassini reentry occurs is the 3/4s pound of plutonium in the 130 RHUs (2.7 grams each). In fact, even NASA expects more than that! NASA expects about 2 pounds, at a minimum, to be released in an accident. Reasonable humans the world over, of course, recognize the possibly that the full load could be released and much of it be vaporized into respirable particles. And he doesn't even mention that the plutonium is Pu 238, not the far more commonly known isotope Pu 239, which is how they pack 400,000 Curies into just 72.3 pounds. Pu 238 is about 280 times more dangerous (for the same size particle) than what NASA calls "weapons grade" plutonium (Pu 239) when inhaled or ingested into the human body. (Other than that, it's virtually identical.) But he doesn't specify, so most people will imagine its just your garden-variety plutonium 239. (Which in fact, would be plenty bad enough since only about 30 millionths of a gram is a fatal dose.)

A quick look at his web site indicates there are many things he and I would agree on. Too bad this isn't one of them, but I think his dark roots are showing. This article is, in short, misleading:


08/03/99 **** RADIATION BULLETIN(RADBULL) **** VOL 7.168




In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us, too, I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, and this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out. --ANNE FRANK

On August 18, 1999, the Cassini space probe will pass about 725 miles above the surface of the Earth, traveling at a speed of over 36,000 miles per hour on its journey to the planet Saturn to study this ringed giant. In all likelihood, the passing will be uneventful and will go unnoticed by millions of people. However, in the event of an accident, some studies show that at least nine of the 73.2 pounds of plutonium on board could become pulverized and breathable. This could result in tens of thousands of cancer deaths. Nothing will probably happen - but it could.

Interplanetary spacecraft have used flybys of the Earth for quite some time. During my nearly 20 year association with NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, working on robotic space exploration missions, engineers would often use planetary flybys as a way to get a free velocity boost.

Rarely is enough money available in today's budgets to launch the spacecraft with booster rockets powerful enough to get the unmanned robot to its planetary destination faster. Designing a trajectory that takes the craft very close to another planet, but not close enough to be captured by the planet's gravity, will result in the spacecraft being swung around that planet going tens of thousands of miles an hour faster, thus reducing the travel time.

Due to the long duration of some of these missions - the Voyager spacecraft was launched 22 years ago and is still working - plutonium has often been used as a source of heat that is converted into electricity. Even though only 500 watts or so of power may be needed, the technological options for generating that kind of steady power in space are few.

Sunlight has been used for power by those missions that traveled to Mercury, Venus and Mars, since ample light is available and the solar panels do not require excessive amounts of weight. But for missions that travel to the distant planets, existing solar technology requires panels so large and heavy that considerable sacrifices would have to be made in building the spacecraft.

Jupiter, for example, is five times the distance of the Earth from the Sun. Saturn, the destination of Cassini, is ten times the Earth's distance from the Sun. A new generation of solar panels is needed to capture the scant sunlight available at those distances. Sadly, NASA is not motivating its engineers to develop solar technology for deep space probes since radioactive power sources have always been readily available.

One of three Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators on Cassini.

The accusations that NASA is working with the military to develop ways to use nuclear material and continue the nuclear weapons program have very little basis in fact. NASA is a civilian agency and really does consider itself as working for humankind.

Concerns that NASA's own documents report that 18 different kind of malfunctions are possible as the Cassini spacecraft approaches the Earth are often out of context. The complex, custom designed spacecraft that are launched to explore the other worlds have a vast array of systems. Controlling the tiny jets that move the spacecraft upon receipt of commands from the Earth is but one of thousands of systems. The chance of one of the postulated failures creating just the right circumstances to move the craft into a collision course with Earth is really remote.

Consider your automobile. There are hundreds of failures that could happen at any moment. Your windshield wipers could stop working, a bulb in your headlight can burn out and even the rear view mirror could fall off. None of these failures would have any affect on the steering of the car unless other factors existed such as driving in the rain or at night.

Also, Cassini is not pointed at the Earth. The plan is to miss the Earth to get that gravity assist.

Recent news reports have raised concern in light of the mishaps of the Deep Space 1 spacecraft. Since DS1's onboard camera was not properly aimed at an asteroid it was attempting to photograph, some claim that Cassini, which is much older technology than DS1, should cause us concern. This logic is flawed, however, and assumes that newer technology is always better.

Deep Space 1 is an experimental craft, designed to test out unproven technologies. No one expected all systems to operate correctly. Cassini, on the other hand, represents proven, well known systems that have their origins in the Voyager project over 25 years ago. In response to dwindling budgets, modern spacecraft contain few redundant systems and conduct reduced testing programs. Components are built to have shorter lifetimes. Cassini was built in the old days and was built to last. Do any of you have a VCR that was made nearly 20 years ago that is still going strong while the latest model lasted only a few months? Newest is not always best.

It is also important to note that the performance of DS1 is not an indicator of a failure. The position of the asteroid it was seeking was not known very well in advance. The mission planned to retarget once better positioning data was obtained. This was done successfully. The position of Earth, however, is quite well known and the Cassini team will have no problem determining the correct coordinates for the flyby.

Regular readers of this column know that there are many things I advise being concerned about. I may be one of the most paranoid people I know! But here is my advice for August 18, 1999 as the Cassini spacecraft flies overhead - get a good night's sleep.

Many of the anti-Cassini arguments use information out of context and creates the us versus them mentality so common in our world today. To me, the issue is not if the Cassini Earth-flyby poses a threat to our well being, but whether or not we should be doing things that have such grave consequences if there is a failure.

The Cassini spacecraft is well built and is controlled by capable people. But it may be more important to consider the mindset that pervades our technologically based culture that considers all technology good regardless of the consequences. Next week, we will explore this mindset and consider alternatives.


1. The Cassini mission response to nuclear safety issues can be viewed

2. See what some of the opponents to the Cassini mission are saying

3. Read an article about how NASA understates risks by Dr. Michio

4. Visit a web site with many articles and links about Cassini concerns

5. Read a brief report about what happened to Deep Space 1 and get a feel for the complexity and amazing capabilities of these spacecraft

6. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Demand that they require NASA and JPL to stop using nuclear material and using other worlds as toxic trash heaps. Tell them that NASA is in violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. If you know jhoffman/congress-email.html. You can also find your representatives

7. Email your concerns to: ˙ ˙Dr. Edward Stone, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at

˙Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of the JPL Space and Earth Science

˙Send a letter to Daniel Golden, the head of NASA at Mr. Daniel ˙S. Goldin, NASA Administrator, NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. ˙SW, Mail Code A, Washington, DC 20456

links in past articles.

; ; ;

{Jackie Giuliano, a writer and a Professor of Environmental Studies, can be found in Los Angeles, California, wondering what kind of world we would have if we simply did not do anything that could possibly harm another. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to



Here is the web site where the above article is probably presented somewhere:

His email address is:

We recommend he read newsletter #148, of course -- The Reincarnation of Carl Sagan:

(4) New York Times NASA forum debates ongoing:

The editor of the STOP CASSINI newsletter has been debating several pro-Cassini persons on the New York Times' NASA forum. Those debates will presumably be posted soon at the STOP CASSINI web site (they're kinda boring), but some might want to join in (or at least watch as they unfold). We haven't actually been visiting the NYT forum, but Richard Wilcox has been forwarding the information for us (and we thank him). Of course, anyone who likes watching the STOP CASSINI editor get insulted should log on there immediately because it's coming in in bucketsful.

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

The hour is late: To stop Cassini and other future mad-scientist launches, please redistribute this newsletter to everyone you know! Chances are they have never heard of Cassini, never visited our STOP CASSINI web site, never heard of or considered the effects of the Electromagnetic Pulse that will undoubtedly start a nuclear war if one occurs at all. And chances are good they would not even be able to tell you who played Dr. Strangelove (and two other roles) in the movie of the same name! There is a crisis in education in America and around the world -- you can take it seriously or you can let it kill you. But if we all join together and oppose this impending global destruction, maybe, just maybe, we can convince the powers that be to put down their genocidal toys.

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.

(6) Subscription information

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Published by Russell D. Hoffman electronically.
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