Correspondence between Al Kemp and Russell Hoffman -- March, 2001

Dear Sir,

I just wanted to add that we have put a number of nuclear reactors in space as well, not just the Russians. My letter seemed to imply (upon rereading it) that only the Russians had launched actual reactors. Ours were called Nimbus. I think there are at least 2 which are right now still orbiting us. Unless the status has changed, I'm pretty sure the exact accounting (such as it's known) is documented at my Stop Cassini web site somewhere in the 50+ separate articles and such, and 250+ newsletters. Probably in the document prepared by Regina Hagen. It was all Cold War histrionics and tit-for-tat.

In the 50's and 60's, the Russians encouraged our anti-nuke movement in America. It would be nice to assign altruistic reasons to them doing this, but it seems to have been because it was thought that doing so would cause the U.S. to stop using nuclear weapons. In any event, naturally it didn't help the movement to be funded that way. Nowadays, the environmental and peace movements in space (and many others, I might add) are entirely infiltrated, sometimes by freelance private detective types, sometimes by actual federal agents, and thus those organizations are kept under control by these agents, who are acting, of course, contrary to our Constitutional principals. It does no good to have free speech if the Government has found 1000 ways not to listen to citizens' complaints. I cannot find an expert on the side of putting more and more nuclear waste into space. The next mission decision to be fought is a Mars mission which will have about 1,000th the amount of plutonium that Cassini had on board, about 365 Curies. A millionth of a Curie of plutonium, or thereabouts, is a lethal dose for humans when lodged in the lung, for example. A 10 millionth of a gram of Pu 238 will usually cause cancer in humans when inhaled. Very deadly stuff indeed. The particle sizes from a vaporization accident would be "ideal" for lodging in the human lung. Spreading it out to more and more people only makes it harder to do proper statistical analysis of the deaths, because the rate of cancer go down as the dose goes down, so if 100 people each get a hundredth of a lethal dose, on average, still one person will get cancer, leukemia, or their children will suffer birth defects. Spreading plutonium out in an environment which reuses everything, including the water we drink, the air we breath and the food we eat, an environment with 6 billion souls on board, nearly half a billion infants and small children at any one time, does no good at all, except to hide those responsible for killing.

Each RHU on board Cassini had about 2.2 grams of Pu 238 and each would have been entirely incinerated in a flyby or late launch reentry accident -- there were about 120 RHUs on Cassini. Try to find so much as ONE NASA press release which mentions this fact. (Or one news article, for that matter!) The proposed Mars mission will have about 25 grams, nearly an ounce of plutonium dioxide, mostly Pu 238. That's hundreds of millions of lethal doses! (There are no RTGs proposed for the Mars mission. Cassini had three RTGs, which are much larger than RHUs).

This is serious business. Why would the government launch such a thing at all, considering that an RHU or "radioactive heater unit", which is what the Mars probe will use the plutonium for (about 11 of them, maximum, they say) just produces a little heat. That can be done other ways. It's something you can do with a solar-fed battery and a resistor of some sort, or by chemical reaction (NASA makes heat from chemical reactions all the time. It's called a rocket.) or even with just a magnifying lens. So why would NASA, who claims to be so capable of doing whatever it takes to accomplish a given task, continuously fight for these little nasty things rather than use an alternative, and even put up enormous and elaborate blockades that prevent you from knowing, as a citizen, exactly what the risks really are from what they are doing (the NASA EISs (Environmental Impact Statements) traditionally carry all the wrong calculations out to three or four decimal places)? As I said, I can't find ONE government or industry expert who can and will talk about this stuff openly and give honest and forthright answers to any question put forth on the issue. Louis Friedman, co-founder (with Carl Sagan) and president of TPS, can answer some questions, but he won't (he used to communicate with me a few years ago, apparently at the request of Carol Rosin, but he never really said anything to prove his case for supporting RTGs and RHUs). He's one of the main promoters of plutonium in space. Otto Raabe heads a radiation industry group; he did not feel he needed to communicate with me or answer my questions. I tried. No one else who spoke out for the launches would actually claim to be all that knowledgeable about the specifics, they would merely claim to trust other experts who have studied the issue, or some such waffling. And threaten me with lawsuits (such as one Woody Smith did, who it turned out worked for NASA, and many others.) For what? For trying to expose what the space cadets are doing? I guess that's why, since that's all I've done.

There are still some who contemplate launching not just Pu 238 heaters and thermoelectric generators, but actually launching nuclear reactors again, and this is especially considered at an annual conference held in, I think, Arizona, each year. The main agent-provocateur (as far as I can tell) in the space environmental/peace movement (Bruce Gagnon) performed stunning histrionics there. I believe that happened more than a decade ago, when he needed to establish himself. I heard about it from Karl Grossman, who I guess actually fell for it, since he used it to describe to me one reason why he thought Gagnon was for real, not an operative of some sort sent to destroy the movement's effectiveness. Gagnon stormed down the aisle, shouted something, and threw leaflets. He's been basically leading the movement (and gathering together people who like to "wear funny hats" as one person put it) ever since.

Where does all this fit in to the Space Debris question you inquired about? It fits tight as a well-worn glove.

Space use is not very democratic. It serves the rich and the powerful, and it has an interesting catch -- it serves the most adventurous among us as well, and some of our most forward dreamers. It captures the imagination. Space is portrayed as thrilling in movies and on T.V., although I imagine in reality it's a lot like flying a jumbo jet or something, which is often described as "hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror". Space travel is probably more like years of boredom punctuated by instantaneous moments of utter chaos. Anyway, the romantic side of space flight has been highly promoted for decades now, while ignoring all the downsides. "Risk" they call it. "Acceptable Risk". But it's one thing for someone to risk their own life to venture into the heavens. More power to them. Offer me a seat on the next shuttle and I'm there. But when what you are risking is global dispersal of plutonium such that people (and animals) all over the world suffer, and to get away with this risky venture you produce phony reports about how likely an accident is, with numbers off by 3, 4, even 5 or 6 orders of magnitude (these are not small errors), and when you add in completely gratuitous calculations of how spread out the plutonium will be in an accident, and dismiss entirely how deadly a little here and there really can be (denying Dr. John W. Gofman's research, conclusions, stature, and that of dozens besides him who have independently, without proper funding, managed to research the issue of LLR (Low Level Radiation)), you have the Crime of the Century.

The Crime of the Century in the 20th Century was the nuclear rape of the planet Earth by the entirely human Nuclear Mafia. Let's hope and pray (as suits you) that it's not the Crime of the Century this century as well. It does not look good.

Part of that rape helped destroy the orbital area around Earth in outer space, and made it impossible for citizens to voice their concerns to the government, and created a secret system for supporting military operations under the auspices of peaceful uses of space, and developed phony international treaties which, while appearing to be worded in order to protect humans from the dangers of radiation and other space hazards, in fact are carefully worded by lawyers to ALLOW the pollution of space, and have done so admirably over the years.

So next time you hear that the space shuttle was diverted because of a piece of space debris, wonder how close the other 100 were that went by, that could have destroyed the shuttle but were too small to be detected. And wonder even more where each of those pieces came from -- 99.99-something% are manmade. And wonder lastly, where the next pieces will come from? A war in space, because of growing and coming weaponization, which will flood Earth's orbital space with debris? Useless commercial uses, which will inevitably fail now and then, or just be left in orbit when they are finished, causing more debris?

Where does it end? Only when the citizens spring forth and stop it! But they can't stop what they don't know about, and there are some very sophisticated systems in place to stop us from knowing the full truth. I have been trying to find out if the Titan IVA which exploded August 12th, 1998 had a plutonium payload on board, for example. It seems to me practically self-evident that it did have a nuclear payload, and that's aside from the fact that I know I heard at least one reporter, in one of the earliest reports about it, say that it did. Ever since that one report (on CNN I think, but they did not respond to my inquiry), the facts have been hidden, but a number of curious incidents (which I've written about previously, no need to repeat them here) occurred after the event, leading me to remain convinced it was, indeed, a plutonium-powered military spy satellite, one of many. And the amazing thing is we buy this type of plutonium from Russia these days (although it gets shuffled around so citizens can't find which plutonium actually came from where, and when you complain that Cassini's plutonium came from Russia, NASA naturally replies "No it didn't" when in fact, it doesn't matter anyway. Some plutonium, used in this deadly game of The Cold War That Never Ended, came from Russia to the U.S. and then went into space. And NASA, after all, covered for the Russians when their Mars 96 plutonium probe crashed into South America. (Everyone now seems to admit is what happened.) Ah, but none dare call it treason! NASA said Mars 96 went down in the South Pacific but I'm sure they had a much better idea of where it probably went. But to protect their own nuclear space program, they covered for the Russians! But none dare call it treason. Thus it is, that just about the only part of the Cold War that isn't over, is the radioactive attack on all citizens of Spaceship Earth by the combined military forces of the United States, Russia, and sundry other nations like England and France. From the Kursk to the Greeneville to Cassini, to the propaganda campaign that keeps the truth from the public, we are all under attack. Literally under the nuclear waste of an on-going war.

Only a complete banning of such payloads, followed by a complete accounting of all such payloads in the past, will ensure that such payloads will not be launched again in the future. (For the record, I am not opposed to allowing, say, .001 Curies of plutonium, maximum, per mission, for well-documented scientifically unavoidable uses, which I understand do actually exist. .001 Curies is a whole lot less than the 365 Curies to be sent to Mars if we allow it, or the 400,000 Curies previously launched precariously on Cassini).


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, California

Author, Animator, and Programmer,
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Statistics Explained, The Heart: The Engine of Life
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attachment: previous correspondence:


Thank you for your email (shown below). I guess most people's thoughts are, "after we clean up the Super-Fund sites, eliminate nuclear weapons, stop war and aggression, and raise everyone's standard of living, then perhaps we should worry about space debris". It seems so far away to most people.

I guess they just don't understand what's happening up there. Russia especially, has left a radioactive legacy, dozens of nuclear reactors in relatively low Earth orbits (400 to 1000 year lifespans), some already leaking highly radioactive primary coolant, all susceptible to space debris themselves. If smashed to bits they would not be retrievable but right now, they could be either retrieved and brought to Earth for a more proper caretaking, or boosted out of Earth orbit toward the Sun for incineration there.

Our own military has sent up an unknown number of radioactive payloads, and still does, not nuclear reactors but Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators and Radioactive Heater Units. NASA also uses these devices, as a cover for the military use, no doubt.

But aside from the radioactive waste being launched into space, (and the cover-ups and lies that accompany that use), any object in space that's not being used for something is space debris. The U.S. military launched half a billion little needles one time, to see how they reflected on radar. Spent rocket stages, old satellites that have become inoperative or have simply been eclipsed by newer technology, even a lost glove, are now highly hazardous bullets threatening whoever ventures towards the heavens.

Some orbital areas are so trashed, "nobody goes there anymore". They are avoided like the plague. Some scientists have calculated that (especially if a few big pieces get smashed), it might already be capable of becoming a chain-reaction thing where all the big pieces of debris get pulverized and we have a dust cloud above us which we cannot venture into or through at all, and which actually not only blocks the sun somewhat (NOT a cure for global warming!!!), but also prevents the use of solar panels in space, so we can't benefit from that technology. Space debris makes the military "NEED" to use RTGs for electrical power, since solar panels would get destroyed by space debris earlier missions have left up there.

And if you ask Dr. Nick Johnson at NASA, their orbital debris expert (or apologist), all he seems to ever say is that they are taking a variety of steps to reduce the creation of new debris, like designing rocket fuel containers to more effectively burn all the fuel in them so they don't explode later. He'll also tell you that they are studying the size of the problem. Soon they might know exactly to five decimal places how much junk is up there, but they still can't track more than about 1% of the deadly pieces. That is, of the pieces large enough to, say, catastrophically damage the space shuttle or space station (anything about the size of a lentil bean or bigger), only about 1 in 100 pieces is large enough to be seen by NASA and military radar systems -- or about 10,000 pieces of the 1,000,000 or so that could damage a space flight.

I've noticed how few reports about the problem ever mention that only about 1% of the stuff that can damage rockets is trackable. They always mention that nearly 10,000 pieces are tracked, but ignore that that is only 1% of the lentil-bean-or-larger material! I hope you'll do better in your report!

If you want to call and ask any additional questions, I'd love to talk more about this issue which I seem to be practically a lone activist on, so please feel free to call at your convenience, at any of the numbers listed below. I will be in and out most of today, tomorrow, and Sunday. Today I'll should be in until about 5 pm your time.

Thank you again for your inquiry. It sure would be nice if this issue got some more attention!


Russell Hoffman

At 10:00 AM 3/16/01 -0500, you wrote:
Dear Mr. Hoffman,
I'm a writer pursuing a story about space debris. I wonder if you might share your insights. Please contact me at your convenience. Thanks.

Wilmington (Del.) News Journal



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First posted April, 2001.

Last modified April, 2001.

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