STOP CASSINI Newsletter #17 --June 16th, 1997

By Russell D. Hoffman

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #17 June 16th, 1997 ****


In this newsletter we discuss some of the opposition (that is, pro-Cassini) viewpoints and make some suggestions for further action.
Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER
Note: There are two corrections to the original edition, which have been offset in brackets below.

**** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #17 June 16th, 1997 ****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #17 June 16th, 1997 ******

By Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman


We received an email this morning from a pro-Cassini person. He asked us to consider both sides of the issue, and quoted a headline at the Planetary Society's web site. Here's the URL he gave us:

If you go to that web site, under the heading "You Can Defend Cassini" and the subheading "Anti-Nuclear Activists Threaten the Launch of the Cassini Mission to Saturn" is the following statement:

"Testifying to the power of the Internet, a small group of activists are having a big influence on the White House approval process for the scheduled launch of the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and its large moon Titan this October. Rather than environmental or health issues, the activism is mostly motivated by an anti-nuclear agenda."

This is pretty amazing. I guess -- I hope -- they are talking about us. If we are indeed a small band of activists, so be it. No group ever started out large. No group ever decided that being small meant they were not right. But what is really amazing is the claim that we are not motivated by "environmental or health issues" but rather, are "mostly motivated by an anti-nuclear agenda".

Well gosh, what's the difference? Why ELSE would anyone be anti-nuclear if not for the environmental and health reasons?

More misrepresentations...

The web page continues with a reprint of an article by Planetary Society Executive Director Louis Friedman. Here are some of his statements and our responses.

Friedman writes:
"A small but vociferous group of anti-nuclear activists are fighting against the launch of the international Cassini mission, destined for Saturn, because they fear a potential release of plutonium from the on-board power supply."

This, his first sentence, is correct. But from there on in, it gets lopsided. For example he writes this about Cassini: "It's designed with a power system that has been employed on 23 planetary missions over the past three decades."

Unmentioned is the fact that Apollo 13 crashed with it's plutonium powerpack somewhere in the South Pacific, with unknown, untested, and unobserved consequences. Unmentioned by setting the timeframe at three decades instead of 33 years, is the intentional incineration of a SNAP-9A powerpack in the upper atmosphere. Unmentioned are the missions that failed for unknown reasons. Unmentioned are nuclear payloads now in useless orbit around the Earth, their mission's goals having been completed, which are destined to fall back to Earth eventually perhaps after a random collision with space debris and which no effort is being made to collect them.

The nuclear option has been hazardous from the start, and less than a few dozen "successes" does not prove this is a reasonable technology. It isn't.

Continuing, Friedman writes:
"To protect against an accident, the plutonium is encased in special containers that can withstand high impact and temperatures."

As long-time readers of this newsletter know, these special containers will, according to NASA's own estimates, suffer a significant partial incineration in the event of an Earth flyby reentry accident. Here is a URL where we discuss NASA's own documentation on this issue:

The plutonium in encased in special containers that might contain most of the plutonium, but certainly won't contain all of it in the event of a flyby reentry accident. The containers have NOT been tested to withstand the high temperatures anticipated in a flyby reentry. The containers have NOT been shown to survive the impacts that might occur if they land on a solid surface such as rock, pavement, or rocket scientists' heads. The containers have NOT been shown to survive ANY impact if they come down in a steep reentry path.

(NOTE: Shallow reentry paths are probably much more likely, which will result in a greater percentage of the plutonium being incinerated in the upper atmosphere.)

Friedman again, on the Huygens probe's investigation of Titan: "Titan, the largest body, boasts organic chemistry that may hold clues to how life formed on Earth."

It simply amazes me that we think we might find the clues to how life formed on Earth by going hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, (where asteroid impacts on Earth over the last few billion years might have placed some Earth-cultured lifeforms anyway) while NASA considers the Tonga trench, the deepest ocean area in the world, to be a safe dumping ground for plutonium packed rockets that fall back to Earth. I say we should be investigating Earth and all the amazing places life on Earth can exist, if we want to learn more about the origins of life.

This is a cheap excuse for the mission but it's there to convince the unsuspecting public that there's a lot of good science going on. There's some, but not this.

Friedman again:
"Six years of work and two billion dollars have been invested by the United States and our European partners, and now a small band of activists are trying to derail the project by promoting fear and exaggerating the risk of an accident."

My understanding is that it's more like 8 years and $3.5 Billion dollars, but anyway, accusing us of "promoting fear and exaggerating the risk of an accident" is pretty shallow. After all, we didn't try to launch this thing! The ones promoting fear are the bull-headed pro-nuclear administrators at NASA and DOE and ESA who would not accept a far more benign and safe solar solution. As for exaggerating the risk of an accident, NASA has made a very concerted effort to understate the risks, and we feel we are setting the record straight. Here is an article, called I.Q. Test for Space Cadets, about how NASA understates the risks. I hope Louis Friedman will read it some day:

Friedman again:
"To be sure, plutonium is radioactive and toxic."

Talk about misrepresentation! Plutonium 238 is extremely "hot" and a respirable particle can mean the localized area where it ends up in your lung will receive 1000's of REM. It is not just "toxic", it is considered by many to be "the most toxic substance on Earth" and it is considered by all to be an extremely toxic substance, especially when inhaled.

Friedman writes:
"NASA has already spent millions of dollars to file and publicize environmental impact statements on the Cassini mission and to take extra safety precautions -- including a multi-layered, multi-shelled canister to house the plutonium and prevent any escape."

This is typical NASA-speak, even if it's not coming directly from NASA. The so-called multi-layered, multi-shelled canisters are (as discussed endlessly at the web site and above in this newsletter) an ineffective protection which even NASA admits are expected to fail significantly. (According to NASA, a flyby reentry accident is expected to release from 32% to 34% of the fuel in the upper atmosphere and 20% to 66% of that is expected to be in respirable particles -- with 66% the far more likely number ([shallow] reentry scenario). This means even NASA admits that a flyby accident can spread from [5 to 20] POUNDS of plutonium in the upper atmosphere, plus any impact releases, plus some variance which NASA never gives us.

Friedman again:
"It's worth noting that mainstream or significant environmental groups have not opposed the launch."

This is also not correct. Numerous Green parties and other environmental organizations -- mainstream ones -- oppose the Cassini folly. With some 70,000 nuclear warheads, several hundred operating nuclear powerplants and still others being planned, and with numerous other environmental degradations going on all around the world as we speak, not every organization can fight every battle. Some organizations which take an interest in particular issues as we have with this one -- small but vociferous organizations being the best, of course -- must carry a particular torch. Cassini is opposed by all right-thinking environmentalists. Here is a web page with "friends of the STOP CASSINI web site. You'll notice that many of these are important, large environmental groups:

I believe most members of most major environmental organizations are opposed to nuclear power, nuclear weaponry, and nuclear proliferation, and I believe opposition to Cassini is strong among those who have studied what Cassini's potential for a nuclear accident is.

Lastly, Louis Friedman states that people like us:
"...are using the Cassini mission as a means to pursue other agendas, including a ban on all nuclear material and anti-space weapons."

This is correct. Cassini is one of many nuclear launches which MUST be opposed if we are to have a clean and healthy environment for all current and future astronaut/inhabitants on "spaceship Earth".


The web page cited above from the Planetary Society also stated the following: "Friedman was also interviewed by the CBS program 60 Minutes for a segment about Cassini that is scheduled to air in September of this year"

No one involved with this web site or this newsletter has been contacted by 60 Minutes and we seriously doubt that CBS will be doing a balanced report come September. Please write to CBS and tell them to be sure to include the opposition -- and we don't mean the pro-Cassini folk's statements about what the opposition is thinking, and certainly not NASA's opinions of what the opposition is thinking. Let the opposition speak! Here is the URL of an article about how badly NASA twists the opposition point of view:

And you can see from the opening statements at the Planetary Society's web page, how badly they twist our views. We are not opposed to Cassini for health or environmental reasons? How dare they say that!


The pro-Cassini people are already being instructed to do so. We need to as well! You can email the President directly at this URL:

Please do so, and please pass this newsletter on to anyone you think might want to join a "small but vociferous group" in opposition to NASA's nuclear nightmare.


Please feel free to post these newsletters anywhere you feel it's appropriate! THANKS!!!

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


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First placed online June 20th, 1997.
Last modified August 17th, 1997.
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