CASSINI and the U.N. OUTER SPACE TREATY
A look at the recent past
by Russell D. Hoffman
In 1966 the United States, the Russian Federation, and the United
Kingdom were the "depository Governments" for a treaty on the
Exploration and Use of Space. In January 1967, MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS
AGO the treaty was opened for signatures by the three depository
Governments. So far, 91 countries have ratified the OUTER SPACE
The treaty is called TREATY ON PRINCIPLES GOVERNING THE
ACTIVITIES OF STATES IN THE EXPLORATION
AND USE OF OUTER SPACE, INCLUDING THE MOON AND OTHER
Treaties are sacred documents and they should not be broken. The
activity of breaking a treaty is a dangerous activity for a
country to engage in. Breaking a treaty leaves a scar upon that
country's reputation that can last for centuries. The United
States signed -- and helped write -- this treaty just
over 30 years ago. We were already well into the space program, so
it's not as if this was written by people who had no idea what they
were getting into. It was not written based on idle conjecture by
some science-fiction authors. It was written by people who were
already at the time going into space--the forefathers of the
industry. It is hard to believe that the current people in
the industry would take this material lightly. But apparently, they
Specifically, they ignore it entirely.
In the preamble to the treaty it recognizes "the common interest of
all mankind" that outer space presents. Then it says, in effect,
that outer space has been deeded to the citizens of the world
by all who can reach it, to be used for peaceful and
beneficial purposes only (my italics).
The treaty contains nine principals.
CASSINI violates eight of them.
- the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for
the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be
the province of all mankind;
By being the province of all mankind, it means that spy satellites
and all secret space missions are illegal. Numerous parts
of any nuclear mission are kept secret from the public. Also, the
inherent dangers and our failure to properly insure the mission mean the
Cassini mission is not being carried out "for
the benefit and in the interests of all countries."
- outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all
If Cassini fails for any reason, it can become a deadly
mass circling Earth, Venus, Jupiter or Saturn or a moon of
one of these planets, or it can fall to Earth, or it can
end up circling the sun on a trajectory that crosses
Earth's own path numerous times for thousands of years.
So Cassini with its pack of deadly plutonium, can get in the way of
all future interplanetary missions, limiting the "free" use of space.
- outer space is not subject to national appropriation by
claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by
any other means;
While it is true that Cassini is not designed to appropriate outer
space, nevertheless it can lay waste to a portion of it, which will
ruin that portion, and which is as good as appropriating it, except
no one gets the benefit.
- States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of
mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station
them in outer space in any other manner;
Any object in orbit around the Earth, or even passing close to Earth
(Cassini will get within 312 miles!) is capable of falling
to Earth if it hits an existing piece of space debris. So if that
object contains 72 pounds of plutonium, it is, by its very nature --
by its very existence! -- a weapon of mass
destruction! 72 pounds is a devastating amount of plutonium to risk
for any reason, let alone NASA's science experiments.
- the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used
exclusively for peaceful purposes;
- Crashing 72.3 pounds of Plutonium into Saturn or perhaps, by
accident, into Jupiter, Venus, or Earth, is not a peaceful purpose. The
consequences of carrying a weapon to the scene of a crime (or to the
scene of a scientific experiment) are that people might get killed.
It is an act of aggression to launch Cassini.
- astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
Cassini does not violate this one! There will be no people on-board
- States shall be responsible for national space activities
whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental
This one is violated by the inappropriate use of the Price-Anderson
Act to insure the Cassini mission (see next principal). The Act
is being used to allow us to duck our responsibilities in the
event of an accident involving nuclear fuel.
- States shall be liable for damage caused by their space
As described in another document at this web site called
Insurance for Cassini? Hardly!
the United States has promised to pay only a tiny fraction of the
damages that Cassini can cause.
- States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and
If Cassini fails it can fall to Earth in a fiery plume. But if Cassini
succeeds, eventually it will fall into Saturn, and since Saturn is so much
bigger than Earth, it will probably completely incinerate on the way
in, much more than even during the Earth flyby. It will probably be going
MUCH faster, too.
One of NASA's stated goals for the mission is something
about studying "the origin of life". Plutonium is harmful to all
known forms of life, so blasting Cassini into Saturn is probably
harmful if there is any life there to find!
Besides, if we ever decide to go
there ourselves, we will have polluted it beforehand by sending
Cassini there first -- even if Cassini is a 100% "successful"
The Outer Space Treaty has been ratified by 91 countries
including the U.S.
DON'T JUST READ THIS, DO SOMETHING!
By Russell D. Hoffman
Related pages at this web site:
- Stop Cassini Home Page
- No Nukes In Space! Not now, not ever.
- Space Debris Home Page
- A series of articles on this shameful problem.
Related pages outside this web site:
- U.N. OUTER SPACE TREATY
- United Nation's web site containing the treaty and many other space-related items.
- U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
- Note verbale dated 2 June 1997 from the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations (vienna) addressed to the Secretary-General.
- U.N. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly.
- 47/68. Principals Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space. December 14th, 1992.
- Principals Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space.
- As adopted by the United Nations.
This article has been presented on the World Wide Web by:
The Animated Software Company
Written April 9th, 1997.
First placed online April 9th, 1997.
Last modified October 9th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman