STOP CASSINI Newsletter #55 -- October 8th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #55 - October 8th, 1997


Ho hum. Another day. Another rocket or two fails somewhere around the world. New studies indicate radiation levels have been set too high. And someone (in this case the "venerable" New York Times) publishes a puff piece based on NASA press releases.

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #55, October 8th, 1997 *****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #55 October 8th, 1997 ******

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

*** Demonstration Safety Rocket Crashes 10 Minutes After Launch

Last weekend a little-reported event occurred which should send chills up the spine of anyone following the Cassini debate. According to a three sentence report titled "Rocket crashes after launch" (October 5th, 1997) in the North County Times (San Diego, CA), "The rocket being launched from the Nevada Test Site malfunctioned and crashed onto Bureau of Land Management land about 12:30 a.m. near Goldfield [NV}, 180 miles northwest of Las Vegas." It added that no damage to buildings and no injuries were reported.

Well, I guess that doesn't sound so chilling, does it? After all, rockets blow up shortly after launch on a regular basis. But this one was special. How so? Again, from the news report: "Department of Energy officials hoped [the rocket] would demonstrate the safety of future shots." That was the purpose of the rocket -- to demonstrate new safety features!

Actually, the test was a complete success. It showed the safety levels that are achievable in real life situations are not the same as the safety levels the scientists think they are capable of achieving. Proving once again that rocket scientists are human, or at least, no better.

*** Study reported in the New Scientist indicates permissible radiation levels may be set too high



DNA can be damaged by radiation in a new and unexpected way. There are fears this may cause a wider range of diseases than previously thought.


*** Recent research available on Pu 238-exposed beagles...

We just found this ditty while surfing the net. We have not seen the report this item refers to yet, but as with the above item, it sounds very relevant to the Cassini debate.


Radiation Research
An International Journal
Official Journal of the Radiation Research Society

Radiation Research
Life Sciences Division
1060 Commerce Park, MS 6480
Oak Ridge, TN 37830-8026
Phone: (423) 574-5874
Fax: (423) 576-4149



J. F. Park, R. L. Buschbom, G. E. Dagle, A. C. James, C. R. Watson and R. E. Weller Biological Effects of Inhaled Plutonium-238 Dioxide in Beagles (p. 365) We have conducted studies with beagle dogs exposed to plutonium-238 dioxide aerosols to identify the tissues at risk and the dose-effect relationships needed to predict the consequences of human exposures by inhalation. In this report, we describe the distribution and biological consequences of inhaled plutonium-238 dioxide in beagles. The range of initial lung depositions extended down to 0.13 kBq (130 Bq), and the dogs were observed for biological effects over their life span. Correspondence to R. E. Weller:


I wonder if the dogs were Euthanized whenever it became apparent they were suffering health effects or if they were made to play out the whole grizzly scene each time. As humans, we generally tend to choose to "play it out each time." Even drag it out as long as we can. My brother did (complications following leukemia) in 1994. My uncle did (lung cancer, presumably from smoking) in 1996. They both hung on with all they had for as long as they could. But there is of course no reason to inflict such horrors upon experimental research animals...

Here is a story about Randy, my brother:

*** Did Space Debris kill this com. bird?

The following report comes from Dr. Laurence Oakvik. Everyone thinks that freedom will come from a few hundred communications satellites allowing a few hundred television media channels run by a few dozen media moguls. Actually the best solution is fiber-optic communications and the Internet, where everyone can communicate with everyone else freely. Instead of CSPAN 1 and CSPAN 2 there can be CSPAN 50,000 which might be -- who knows? NASA internal meetings? Congressional sub-sub-sub committee meetings? Also anyone can become a publisher on a shoe-string budget which has been the goal of civilization for a long, long time. Long live the Internet. Kill your television.

(Admittedly, right now communications satellites do serve remote areas, but India, which is the subject of the article, with it's incredibly dense population, could not be considered a remote area.)


To: Russell D. Hoffman
Subject: The Danger of Space Debris Vis-a-Vis Cassini


I am Dr. Laurence Oakvik. My Doctorate is in Environmental Sciences. I have been following the pro and contra regarding Cassini and its 72.3 pounds of [plutonium dioxide] for a year.

I am an avid supporter of space exploration -- but I think the risks concomitant with Cassini and its potentially deadly Radioisotopic Thermal Generators makes it morally incumbent upon N.A.S.A.-- and ultimately the President--to forestall the launch until the dangers can be more thoroughly discussed. I feel Congressional hearings are called for regarding Cassini. Below is a recent article from _Science_, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

6 October 1997 08:00 PM

India Loses New Communications Satellite

NEW DELHI--The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) last night abandoned efforts to rescue its premiere communications satellite. On Friday the agency lost contact with the $100 million satellite, which had suffered major problems in part of its power supply.


...About a week ago, an electrical connection between the solar cells and the satellite failed. *Satellite controllers suspected that space debris might have caused a short circuit. Without power to warm the fuel supply, the thrusters became inoperative and the satellite spun out of control, leaving the satellite antennas unable to fix on Earth.* (emphasis mine)

By Friday, the National Stock Exchange of India, which was using this satellite, was unable to trade. Telephone services in some remote parts of Jammu and Kashmir among other areas have been also been affected. "Efforts are being made to ameliorate the current problems by sharing the existing load onto other INSAT satellites already in orbit," says an ISRO spokesperson.


Last Wednesday, ISRO suffered another blow when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (ScienceNOW, 30 September) fell short and placed a remote-sensing satellite in a faulty orbit. ISRO is still trying to correct the error. [end article]

This could certainly happen to Cassini. Please do not launch Cassini until the potential liabilities are are discussed and assessed to a degree much better than seems to be the current state of affairs! Thank you for your need attention and concern!

Very Concerned,

Dr. Laurence Oakvik, Ph.D.


*** New York Times publishes NASA puff piece: Jane Prettyman responds

On October 7, 1997 The New York Times news service distributed an article about Cassini called "A Voyage of Discovery to the Ringed Planet". It was written by John Noble Wilford. Shown below is Jane Prettyman's response which she sent to the New York Times:


CC: President Clinton

To the Editor, New York Times October 8, 1997

John Noble Wilford's Oct 7 article "A Voyage of Discovery to the Ringed Planet" is a puff piece about the Cassini Mission stitched together from NASA press releases. While I fully support NASA's space explorations, I believe their scientists can do better than the lazy and dangerous plutonium solution to power Cassini's instruments on its flight to Saturn. Launch is set for Oct. 13.

Wilford's misinformation about solar options doesn't help. He states, "Beyond Mars . . . solar panels to be effective would have to be too large and unwieldy to be practical." This is inaccurate. The Galileo mission, which went out to Jupiter loaded with 49 pounds of plutonium in 1989, was said to have been powerable by solar without significant design changes, according to JPL's own Rockey (et al.) report (1981), obtained through the Freedom of Information Act only after Galileo was launched. NASA plans a deep-space solar-powered mission to Jupiter in 2001. Hughes SpaceLab recently announced they have nearly doubled efficiency of solar cells. Most solar physicists agree that Cassini could be chopped down to two efficiently solar-powered probes to Saturn within 3-5 years max. What's the hurry?

Wilford marginalizes public skepticism about the plutonium risk when he reports ". . . the only remaining obstacle appears to be threats by anti-nuclear groups." One would hardly call the thousands of middle class Americans who have signed petitions and asked their City Councils to pass postpone-Cassini resolutions "anti-nuclear groups." The Massachusetts State Legislature, which just passed a Resolution to delay Cassini long enough for Congressional hearings and review of solar options, is not a hotbed of "anti-nuclear protesters"--although there's nothing wrong with anti-nuclear protest and there ought to be more of it. Wilford's intent is to convey a minimal handful of opposition voices to plutonium in space. Neither Wilford nor any other mainstream news reporter does journalistic justice to average citizens in communities all over the country who recognize that the public interest has not been represented in the closed-loop decision-making to approve Cassini.

Wilford's misinformation continues when he states, "If it had not been for international commitments, Congress might have killed the Cassini project in the late 1980s." In fact, Cassini was killed by the 103rd Congress because of its $3.4 billion cost and brought back to life by supposedly budget-conscious but not pork-resistant Republicans in the 104th Congress.

Wilford blithely reports that "Previous missions like the Voyagers and Galileo have relied on the same type of [plutonium] system that is on Cassini, without mishap." That illogic is like saying "The plutonium trigger has been pulled on previous empty chambers, without mishap."

According to JPL's chief Cassini scientist Charles Kohlhase, we have until at least November 4 before a Cassini delay would begin to be detrimental to launch windows or science benefits. This means we have time to hold Congressional hearings on Cassini. A quick and timely set of hearings were held over sending American astronauts to MIR last month. The same timely hearings could be accomplished to fully and competently weigh the pro's and con's of Cassini's risks before November 4. If we can put a man on the moon, we can put scientists from both sides of the Cassini debate in the witness chair. Let's do it.

Jane Wardlow Prettyman
2755 Vernon Road, Santa Barbara CA 93105
(805) 682-1920 days


Jane edits The Real News Page which is currently running a special edition sub-site called "The Cassini Debate--and Beyond" at the following URL:

*** Central PA checks in with a Cassini article:

Here is the URL for the web site for "Voices of Central PA":

This month Kevin J. Kalupson wrote an article for Voices about the Cassini mission, which links to our STOP CASSINI web site (and to NASA, of course).

Here is the URL of the article:

*** Eleven Arrests in Vermont: A report from the forest:




by Orin Langelle

BURLINGTON, VT, October 7--Eleven anti-Cassini protesters were arrested today after occupying Senator James Jeffords (R-VT) office for almost six hours. Two of the protesters were removed after the Burlington Fire Department cut the desks they were bicycle-locked on to. Another participant doing jail support was given a citation later by the Burlington Police Department after being signaled out as a perceived organizer. Several of the protesters reported brutal treatment by the police.

Beginning at noon concerned citizens including local taxpayers, student groups, and environmental and social activists alike, entered Senator Jeffords office and demanded that he take a stand against the launch of the NASA nuclear-powered Cassini space probe. The probe, loaded with 72.3 pounds plutonium-238--the most carcinogenic substance known--is scheduled to be launced next Monday in Florida headed for Saturn.

The protesters demanded that Senator Jeffords publicly denounce the Cassini probe and that he meet with President Clinton, urging him to cancel the launch. According to one local organizer, Jeffords "can create the pressure to stop the launch, and knows how truly dangerous it is, yet he's choosing to do nothing to stop it. Jeffords has not issued a position on the issue. It appears he lacks the courage to take a stand." The only stand Jefford's took was to have the protesters arrested.

Upon entering Jefford's office one activist said, "If there is a screw-up with this nuke in space, life as we know will be irrevocably altered." She added, "There can be no environmental sanity or social justice on a dead planet!" Another activist stated, "there are healthier, safer alternatives to fueling Cassini...we don't need to use something so deadly. NASA knows [full] well that solar panels would work just as efficiently, and wouldn't threaten 3/4ths of the entire world's population."

Demonstrators also demanded that there be a public debate on NASA's and the Pentagon's nuclear space program. "NASA has stated that the benefits outwiegh the risks", said one of the protesters, "but has the public been consulted? No. No government agency has the right to put the public at risk without even consulting us."

NASA itself stated in its Final Environmental Impact Statement for Cassini that if "...a [Cassini] inadvertant reentry occurred, approximately 5 billion of the estimated 7 to 8 billion world population at the time of the swingby [sic] could receive 99% or more of the radiation exposure." This is not even taking into account the impact on the planet's non-human flora and fauna.

Previously, on Saturday, October 4, around 300 participants attended an anti-Cassini rally at Burlington City Hall Park. Following that, a large contigent of those present (approximately 100) marched to the General Dynamics plant where they torched a mock rocket. Police officers and fire trucks were called to the scene and over 75 of those protesters (according to the Burlington Free Press) linked arms, formed a human chain, and prevented police and the local fire department from putting out the fire which consumed the mock rocket.

Note from the NFN: Out of the eleven arrested, all were friends including NFN Representative, Steve Christianson and Resource Center Coordinator, Anne Petermann (arrested as a perceived leader of the action while at the Police Department acting as jail support for the arrestees. According to the arresting officer, she was given the charge of vandalism for using sidewalk chalk to write slogans on the exterior of Senator Jeffords office building. All 11 are out of jail and the court date is set for November 18th. This occupation received headline coverage from VT media.

For further information:

Eastern North American Resource Center
POB 57, Burlington, VT 05402 USA
(802)863-0571 FAX: (802)863-2532

U.S. McLibel Support Campaign
PO Box 62
Craftsbury VT 05826-0062
Phone/Fax 802-586-9628
To subscribe to the "mclibel" electronic mailing list, send email

Subject: (not needed)
Message: subscribe mclibel

To unsubscribe, change the message to: "unsubscribe mclibel"


*** Have you participated in the online Cassini vote yet?

Online Cassini Voting booth asks the question:

"Do you believe that it is safe to launch Cassini as planned?"

Current Poll Results - October 8, 14:30 Pacific time, courtesy Robert Cherwink:

Yes: 412 (59.8%)
No: 277 (40.2%)

This note was included:

"Note: because of a security violation, some results were lost over the weekend of October 4-5. We regret the error, and are working to make sure it does not happen again."

GO VOTE! Can't hurt. Might help. And don't try to violate their security -- and like I said last time, don't vote twice. It's unauthenticated. It's only a game. But go vote anyway.

*** From the email 'in' box -- Continued debate...

In newsletter #52 we responded to a letter from "B.E." This is a continuation of that correspondence.


At 10:28 PM 10/7/97 "BE" wrote:


What exactly is a "hidden health effect"? Is that like an undocumented scientific breakthrough? Or maybe, it sounds bad, so it must be bad? Russ, if you'd really checked into the science of this matter, you'd know that during the A bomb testing of the 50's and 60's, enough plutonium was released into the atmosphere to kill the entire human race, using your math.

Please, get your facts straight.





A "hidden health effect" would be one that is statistically difficult to identify. Your side always did ignore them. When someone gets a cancer or leukemia, the cause, perhaps a particle of plutonium, is difficult to identify as well, so even if you realize that people are dying, you may not be able to identify the cause.

Lost of people are dying from unidentified causes and there are lots of "hidden health effects" in the world. I would say, your view is a cartoon view -- that what you can't see, can't hurt you.

As Vice President Al Gore pointed out yesterday at the Global Warming conference at the White House, it took decades after scientists first postulated that second-hand cigarette smoke was a killer for statistical evidence to that effect to emerge.

Far more than enough plutonium was released from weapons testing that, in a clinical situation, it could kill everyone the world over. You point being???

Russell Hoffman


*** More from the email 'in' box -- says I'm overreacting.


At 10:24 AM 10/6/97 JM wrote:

Dear Sir,

After spending 6 years getting an MS in Physics, I can say this without concern - it's completely safe. You're over-reacting.





Thank you for your opinion, but you do realize even NASA (in official documents if not in PR-speak) says differently. Chance of plutonium release at launch: 1 in 345. Chance a flyby reentry? NASA says one in one million, but then, they said one in 10 million for the SNAP-9A in 1964 and one in one hundred thousand for Shuttle accidents, prior to Challenger.

Completely safe? No. Safe enough? I doubt it and many scientists, with decades of experience after getting their degrees, also do not agree.

Thanks again for writing,
Russell Hoffman



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 October 9th, 1997.
Last modified October 9th, 1997.
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