STOP CASSINI Newsletter #42 -- September 15th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #42 - September 15th


Cassini is hot in the news now, and it's amazing how easily the press will tow the NASA party line. Where is our free-thinking press?

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER

**** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #42 September 15th, 1997 ****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #42 September 15th, 1997 ******

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


Carol Rosin is Coordinator of the World Space Commission. Former Corporate Manager in the aerospace defense industry, a space and missile defense consultant, "Rosin is regarded to be the original political architect of the move to stop the SDI and ASAT" -- Military Space (newsletter). Her web site is located at:

From Carol Rosin:



This is the crucial moment in history when the countries of the world can put a literal halt to the nuclearization and weaponization of the space above all our heads. We must, also, halt the launching of Plutonium, and the ground-based pointing and testing of weapons that can hit and destroy our vital technologies and services in the sky and cause destabilizing, threatening, costly, catastrophic events on Earth.

This is the only moment when we can transform the mindset and technologies of war and killing, including the entire military industrial complex of the world, into research and development programs that are intended to build a cooperative world space program that can be directly applied to solving urgent and potential human and environmental problems while obtaining an unlimited abundance of benefits, opportunities, and sustainable development for all people on Earth. Space will replace war because space is the only arena with the scope and the drama to do it.

Carol Rosin, Founder, Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space, and Coordinator, World Space Commission, and Rashmi Mayur, Director, International Institute for Sustainable Future, hereby call for all world citizens and leaders on this planet, Earth, to sign a good faith agreement that will ban all weapons from the space frontier.


Please sign the following statement immediately.
Fax, email or mail it by October 3, 1997 to:

Carol Rosin
424 Manzanita Avenue
Ventura, California 93001
FAX: 805-641-9669






*** A continued correspondence with James Spellman:

EMAIL FROM JAMES SPELLMAN, National Space Society/Western Spaceport Chapter

Subject: {DN} Yet another round in "The Great RTG/anti-Cassini Debate"

Date: 09/08/97

TO: Russell Hoffman - Editor, Stop Cassini Newsletter
From: Jim Spellman - National Space Society/Western Spaceport Chapter

Finally starting to muddle through your backlog of stuff. This was a gem of one that I couldn't resist responding to immediately.

In a message dated 97-07-12 18:00:49 EDT, you write (in response to someone else's posting):

Speaking of solar alternatives, your documents say that Jupiter gets 25% of the sunlight that Earth gets, hence solar was not an option for Ulysses. Now, I read that Saturn gets just 1% of the light that Earth gets, so solar again is "not quite ready yet". Well, I don't believe it. If solar is "not quite ready" for Cassini at 1%, then I doubt that 5 or 6 years ago when Ulysses was launched, solar was "not quite ready" for 25% of Earth's light. Did we progress that much to where we are nearly capable of providing power where only 1% of Earth's amount of light is available? Or are we so totally incapable of using solar that it's simply out of the question? WE ARE NOT. After all the array even NASA envisions is only about the size of two tennis courts. So Ulysses, if flown now, could use an array 1/25th of that size, no? Couldn't we have waited half a decade and flown a non-nuclear Ulysses? Sure sounds like it to me!

"Not quite ready yet" is not a NASA quote of course, it's an assumption based on NASA's descriptions of solar alternatives. Even though NASA uses outlandish solar arrangements, they still don't seem very unworkable to me. Two tennis court-sized arrays attached to an object that weighs more than a fully packed UHaul truck doesn't sound all that far from a workable (arrangement to me.)


Your naivete and credibility slip is showing once again. First off, Ulysses was a Sun orbiting probe. I think you meant to talk about the Galileo mission, launched by the space shuttle. It also used an RTG power source and made two swingbys of Earth with no ill-effects, despite protests from the anti-nuclear camps.

For the record, I believe in the domestic uses of solar power. It's a shame they're not being used more often here on Earth. I wonder why? You'd think more homes and cars would be wallpapered with the stuff by now. Afterall, they've been in use since the early '60s.

The fact is (barring opposition by Big Oil and Detroit -- but that's another story), the technology just isn't there -- not now or in 2001 or 2002 or so.

First off, you're going to need the power of Sunlight for solar panels to convert energy. The further away you get from the Sun's light source, the less effective they become. That's why Jupiter gets 25% of the Sun's light and Saturn gets 1% of the Sun's light in comparison to the Earth.

We're talking some great distances here, which explains why Voyagers 1 & 2, launched aboard Titan IIIE's in 1977 didn't reach Jupiter until 1979/80, and Saturn until 1981. Voyager 2 then reached Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989, despite having its speed increased with each gravity assisted flyby (Voyager 1 was slinged on a different trajectory out of the plain of the eclipitic during its Saturn flyby).

It might help to watch the first two minutes of the opening sequence of the movie "CONTACT" to better understand what I'm talking about. The further away you get from the Sun's light, the less effective it becomes, merging into all those other points of light in the night sky called stars.

Otherwise, try making a solar array work at full strength at night in pitch blackness (you can do this experiment with a solar-powered calculator -- it works on the same principle; Go to a remote area late at night away from any city lights). Maybe then you'll understand why it just won't work.

Even with state-of-the-art technology, these solar panels would have to be the size of a couple of football fields, not tennis courts (and once again, you have a MAJOR weight problem trying to get them off the ground on ANY kind of launch vehicle -- which currently doesn't exist now or in 2001 or 2002 or so).

BTW -- The Russian space station MIR uses solar panels extensively to keep things going. However, the moment they're incorrectly positioned away from the Sun (as has happened numerous times recently) the onboard batteries that they're supposed to keep charged have this nasty habit of running out of "juice" pretty darn quickly (and MIR is considerably closer to the Sun than Cassini will ever be. . .).

RTGs are the most effective and safest way of powering deep-space probes.



Jim Spellman's page on how you can travel as an airline courier
(This has been removed. See newsletter #43 for explanation.) ===========================



To: Jim Spellman
Date: 9/15/97


You wrote:

"That's why Jupiter gets 25% of the Sun's light and Saturn gets 1% of the Sun's light in comparison to the Earth."

Actually Jupiter gets about 4% of Earth's light, not 25%. Fooled you! It was indeed originally my mistake, but you let it "slip", indicating your own naivety... But then, you've risen to president of your local chapter of the National Space Society and I am but a (misguided?) assembler language computer programmer and educational software developer who is now way over his head into politics...

Ulysses went out as far as Jupiter and it was Ulysses I was talking about and, guess where I got my data (then mistakenly transcribed the figure "4%" into "1/4th" in my mind, which then became "25%" in the essay)? I got it from stuff you faxed me a couple of months ago. Too bad I hadn't organized my desk back then and actually been able to find the document, but I've cleaned up my act a bit (to everyone's surprise and delight...)

So, yes, I meant Ulysses, which was a sun orbiting probe as you say, but it went out as far as Jupiter (actually, orbited around it) and used RTGs unnecessarily...

The point was, had the Ulysses mission been initiated today, I think everyone agrees that it could be planned and executed with a safe solar alternative rather than the risky RTG solution. So once again I have proven myself absolutely pro-space but anti-nuclear.

Jim, I think your "gem" got more egg on YOUR face than it did on mine...

Here's the URL for NASA's home page for an alphabetical listing with links to all of NASA's major space science missions (So we can both have less egg in the menu next time.)

... topic in your letter...

As to oil beating out solar here on Earth in the past few decades, that is true. But your understanding of the reasons behind it appear to be incomplete.

Oil is irreplaceable. Solar is not. So does that mean we might as well burn up the oil until we run out, THEN turn to solar?

NO! NO!! NO!!! A thousand times, NO!!!!

"Oil is far to precious to burn."

I can't recall who said that, but my recollection is it was a scientist in the mid or late 1800's. Yet still today, we JUST DON'T GET IT.

Oil is for plastics. Oil is for lubricating. Oil is not for simply cracking and burning. Oil, if nothing else, is for the future. We rape the land whenever we take a natural resource, we pillage our descendant's property.

When that is permissible (if ever) is up to society to choose, but NO reasonable society would EVER pillage the land when there is an alternative at hand. The alternatives include solar, wind, hydro, wave energy conversion technology, and other renewable, non-polluting solutions.

It's not that we cannot burn any oil. It's that we can only burn it when we cannot find a reasonable alternative to burning it. Reasonable alternatives. RTGs are unreasonable solutions to a space need. Burning oil by the tankerful is unreasonable when there are alternatives.

How do we decide when it may be burned, and why? If that is just a "market" decision, then we live in an unplanned world. Is that normal? Not at all!

Must everything fall to the muddled ebb and flow of commerce, the teetering balance of power that goes into deciding the price of oil versus the price for solar? Wars are fought, after all, on the availability and price of oil. So clearly, this is not a decision that should be left to chance.

Solar solutions on Earth AND for space have not received anything approaching the funding that has gone into nuclear solutions on both Earth and in space. Solar funding annually by the U.S. Government is a tiny fraction of the funding that goes into nuclear this and nuclear that including nuclear space programs.

So you can always say the solar solution is not quite ready. There will always be a mission that solar and other alternative solutions are not quite ready for. And, the pro-nuclear camp will push hard for THAT mission, because otherwise they'll have nothing to do. There are 12 more nuclear space missions currently being planned.

Until solar is properly funded, and the oil-replacement cost is properly charged, and the nuclear waste problem is solved and then properly charged, it is truly unfair to complain that the solar alternative appears weak and not cost effective.

Are we, as a society, going to allow ourselves some -- perhaps small, perhaps large -- degree of control to achieve a greater good for society? Or are we going to let random forces act upon the price of goods, regardless of any moral, military, or scientific (health, for example) constraints?

The answer, of course, is we will do both. Oil is underpriced because we do not charge the tax that our descendents will have to pay when it runs out. Some feel this is okay. Why they feel that way, I do not know, but it seems to be because they make money from oil and don't want that to change... Or, they are afraid of "big Government", forgetting that Government is nothing more than the expression (imperfect, of course) of the will of the people! To be against "big Government" is absurd. No Government of a country this big can be anything but "big Government".

So to attempt some additional degree of control to better society is not a major shift in attitude or even in the ways of commerce. Those who make honest money from oil would always still make honest money from oil -- maybe even more money than before.

... topic in your letter...

I haven't seen "Contact", but you must be referring to the "law of inverse squares". Yes, things get dark out there. Technological advances will both reduce the power requirements of a given mission and increase the yield from solar panels over the coming decades. Even the power from a thermocouple attached toa plutonium powerpack will probably double or quadruple over the next few decades. If it did the same mission could perhaps use half or 25% of the plutonium the Cassini folly will use. Just for example, of course.

I have seen a clip from Contact, on CNN I think it was, and so I know that Jodi Foster's character in the movie doesn't understand nuclear power...

I have heard that the movie G.I. Jane presents the Government-sponsored point of view on RTGs as well... Recalling your employment history, I'd have to guess you'd know all about THAT sort of propaganda campaign, right?

Battery-assisted solar calculators work fine at night if you pay any attention to them during the day... A little attention to detail, and technology can do wonders safely. I love technology, Jim. I love space exploration. I love democracy and the right to raise my voice.

(People have been telling me I need to show more love in these newsletters so now that that's done and we're all bored, I think I'll sign off and let you get back to catching up on my other foibles as you promised. Just be sure to polish those gems a little better next time.)

Take care,
Russell Hoffman

*** A comment about EPA's rejection of the NASA's Cassini SEIS:

I am absolutely not an absolutist.

In my opinion, a very low risk of 120 or even 2300 lives (two of NASA's estimates for the potential deaths from Cassini) may well be within reason for a major scientific experiment -- and as everyone reading this surely knows, I oppose Cassini perhaps more strongly than anyone, or at least more passionately. But I would never say "even the risk of one death is too many".

I oppose Cassini because there is no way the numbers that NASA gives are accurate. They are a guess, based on averaging a variety of accidents. That is not a "worst case" scenario at all, it is an average of many types of accidents, some big and the vast majority small and relatively minor.

Even EPA rejected NASA's EIS on this specific ground (and others as well). They classified the Final Supplemental EIS on the Cassini Mission as "EC-2 (environmental concerns, insufficient information)."

Here, specifically, is what they said regarding this aspect. (I'll try to scan the whole section in soon and post it at my web site.):

"The consequences from a full range of scenarios, including the worst case source terms for both launch and reentry scenarios, should be calculated and included in the final supplemental EIS. The use of statistically derived worst case scenarios downplays the level of risk which could occur in the worst case." (U.S. EPA comment, page E-13, NASA FSEIS, June 1997)

Exploration runs risks, this we know. We must accept some level of risk. But we cannot accept a level of risk which we are not told the truth about. When the truth is already one of the first casualties, then yes -- I agree, ANY potential level of risk, 120 lives or 2300 or even 1, is too many.

In the case of nuclear power sources, NASA has lied in every way they can think of about the size of the risk. They have lied to Congress, the public, and to themselves.

All these lies, especially the lies and oversimplifications of the official spokespersons, destroy the credibility of NASA and make us not care about what they might discover. There have even been reports that NASA touched up Hubble photographs before presenting them to the public! What kind of science are we supporting here, anyway? How can the scientific gain be greater than the democratic principals lost, the risk of lost world respect if Cassini fails, and most of all, who cares about a science return from an agency that pathologically lies?

Without naming names I know (and I do know of several, some of which have not come out in public) I am absolutely positive that RIGHT NOW there are many people in NASA who oppose Cassini as much as anyone outside the agency. These people are utterly afraid to speak. What kind of public government agency can hold such a grip over people's willpower? I'll tell you: One which threatens. Whistleblowers at NASA are destroyed by the rest of the gang there. Their names become curse words which are uttered in derision even by people who do not know what the whistleblower's accusations were! They lose their jobs, their respect, and their friends.

If the pro-nuclear Cassini people can come up with some stronger argument than the useless one they keep repeating, namely that the anti-nuclear Cassini people are anti-technological know-nothings, they might be able to sway people a bit. But in general few pro-nuclear Cassini people that I have seen actually have any concept of the full range of facts in the case.

Russell Hoffman

*** About the Gravity Assist flyby maneuver set for 1999

The "flyby" or gravity-assist is scheduled to occur in 1999. It's the most dangerous part of the mission from several points of view, but NASA is not worried for two simplistic reasons.

First, they do not believe that there is much harm from low-level radiation. Even if 5 billion people or more get a dose -- 90% or more of the population of the Earth. Second, they do not believe much will be released. Even though just .01% holds hundreds of thousands of potentially lethal doses -- perhaps millions of potentially lethal doses (it partly depends, of course, on the population density near where it comes down, and other factors NASA has NO CONTROL OVER!)

An excellent article is called CASSINI CANCERS by Dr. Horst Poehler, who by the way has more than three decades of experience as a senior researcher with various NASA contractors. Here's the URL of the article:

Our basic claim is that NASA has done everything they can to reduce provable deaths and very little indeed to reduce actual deaths.

*** A letter to the Editor of the New York Post:

To: Editor, NY Post
From: Russell D. Hoffman
Date: 9/14/97

To The Editor:

I have read your pro-nuclear Cassini editorial and challenge the writer to visit our STOP CASSINI web site and see for himself that there are many good scientists with good reputations who oppose Cassini. Despite your unprofessional name-calling, they are not "Chicken Littles" at all, they are serious and respected scientists concerned with the health of society.

Furthermore the STOP CASSINI movement is not a "small but vocal effort" in any sense of the imagination. We are a large and growing movement of logical people who care. I'm sure there are far more people opposed to Cassini than read your paper, and yes, I know your paper has a huge circulation.

NASA's own documentation disagrees with the assurances you say NASA gives; this discrepancy is due to the fact that NASA's spokespeople do not state what NASA's own documentation states. Rather, they simplify and distort the truth, or outright lie. We have documented this extensively at the web site.

If you wish to give your readers a chance to read the scientific critiques of NASA's propaganda, I ask you to publish our URL so that they can get the full story:

Or, your readers can simply go to any Internet search engine and type "anti Cassini" and find the opposition's statements and essays and reports. If you do this, you'll see that your distorted view of the opposition is completely out of sync with reality.

As a leading newspaper, you have a solemn duty to present the full truth. That would include the true facts about the case, not just unchallenged NASA half-truths.

Note that there will be a rally September 20th from noon to 8 pm in front of the United Nations. I'm sure many of your smartest readers will be there.

Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI newsletter
STOP CASSINI web site.

*** More about the Cassini delay and current estimated launch date...

Cassini was supposed to be launched October 6th, but things have changed a little.

Cassini has probably been delayed, perhaps by as much as 10 days but probably more like 7, maybe 1... maybe not at all. How much do you want to trust NASA on that, right?

Here is a URL of the original launch schedule. It still gives the actual launch times, but who knows what day the launch will actually occur:

What caused the possible delay was: Human error. Plain and simple. Cassini had a problem: A incorrectly set air conditioning valve meant cold air blew out at more than 200 MPH but was supposed to blow at about 130 mph. (Aviation Week & Space Technology/September 8th, 1997)

Poof! And I DO MEAN POOF! It resulted in a tear in some fabric on the Hugyens space probe, and they had to dismount it to clean it. They had to fly 25 experts over the Atlantic from Europe (the Huygens probe was built by the European Space Agency) who are reportedly working in three shifts to get the job done. Your tax dollars at work...

According to the Aviation Week article: "The length of the delay has not been determined, but Richard J. Spehalski, Cassini program manager, has asked his managers to come up with a plan that will enable liftoff no later than Oct. 15. He hopes that by going to a 24-hr/three-shift operation, an earlier launch may be possible."

So it may launch on time, but it probably won't. NASA can if they want, use this "event" to mess up the protest schedule... However we have heard of no protest scheduling changes.


Published: Saturday, September 13, 1997
Section: A SECTION
Page: A13

By Lynne Bumpus-Hooper, of The Sentinel Staff


Repairs to the Cassini spacecraft were completed Friday, and NASA tentatively set the launch for Oct. 13. The Air Force is expected to set a firm date once Cassini is mated to its Titan IV rocket, said NASA spokesman Don Savage.


Needless to say from the title, this article has some other interesting Cassini protest news which I'll try to fit into the next newsletter...

*** Contact the President's Science and Technology person today!


"I can't remember now who told me, but I was given to understand that the assistant to the President for Science & Technology refuses to meet with [anti-nuclear Cassini people]. I do not know for sure if that is true. He is the one the President will depend upon when he has to make the decision if the Cassini space probe flies or not. The assistant's name: Dr. John Gibbons. His phone number: (202) 456-7116."



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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