STOP CASSINI Newsletter #60 -- October 30th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #60 - October 30th, 1997


Despite NASA having gotten away with the launch, the STOP CASSINI movement is growing stronger all around the world. When CBS's 60 Minutes recently reported on Cassini as if it were a local debate centered around the launch, they were nearly as short-sighted as NASA itself.

The truth is coming out in spectacular fashion. People around the world continue to contact the editor of this newsletter, and others in the movement are reporting a similar lack of let-up. The issue of low-level radiation damage, the issue of NASA lies used to promote NASA guesswork, the issue of open public discourse about the risks and the liabilities from a flyby accident -- these have not gone away.

I have even been lightly chided for calling the movement a failure.

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #60, October 30th, 1997 *****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #60 October 30th, 1997 ******

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

*** Cassini opposition continues in England:

Because of the incoming email shown below (interspersed with our answers) I visited NASA's Cassini web site for the umpteenth time, but the first time in a few weeks, and boy did I get some delightful egg on my face! I see they have posted the EIS's and various accompanying documents, in Adobe Acrobat PDF format! Goodness, when did that go up? I don't think it could have been all that long ago, maybe a month at most? In any event, it sure is nice to see. Too bad it still does not answer the opposition's statements in any kind of responsible and organized fashion, but at least NASA's own malarky is available for public inspection at last.


To:Cath at Greater Manchester and District CND (
cc:Robert Cherwink ( (Please forward to abolition caucus if possible.)
Date: 10/30/97
From: Russell Hoffman
Re: Your questions regarding Cassini:


I've interspersed answers and the URL's where more answers are to your Cassini questions:

At 12:34 PM 10/29/97 "Cath" wrote:

Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 16:11:38 GMT
From: (Greater Manchester and District CND)
Subject: Cassini Query

Dear Friends

A correspondent of ours recently received a reply from his MP in response to a letter expressing concern about the Cassini mission.

The MP had taken the trouble to contact the relevant people within the MoD in order to answer his queries. They responded with the following letter (abridged by me) and also enclosed a copy of an article in Space News Sept 22-28 [1997], and NASA's own information from their website.

Our 'concerned citizen' is anxious to reply to his MP, and contradict some of the information, and would like someone with more knowledge on the issue to offer guidance on how to effectively counter these arguments.

I presume that others have already accessed NASA's website and have made some response. I would be grateful if anyone could help us out by sending us a reply or any response to the following NASA information: (Frequently asked questions regarding Cassini Mission)

The correct NASA URL is:

Although I have not answered this specific document, our web site, and in particular our documents sent directly to NASA, should serve as a lead-off point for responses to this sort of document. Specifically, please see the document called "The Commentor's Accusations are Unfounded" which is what NASA said about me, and then I said it about them. In particular, please see section 2-12 (e) which discusses "NASA lies".

This is the URL of the rebuttal to NASA's rebuttal:

This is the URL of our original comments to NASA on their Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement:

NASA's rebuttal to the April 1997 document is located in GIF image format at our STOP CASSINI web site. We had scanned it in because NASA had not released any of these source documents on the Internet until some time near the launch. I am not sure when they finally appeared (in "Adobe Acrobat PDF" format) but on checking back there today, it's good to see them there at last. But after a quick search, we still couldn't find this particular section anyway so here's one source for it:

Also, I suggest reviewing Dr. Horst Poehler's CASSINI CANCERS article, as well as Dr. Michio Kaku's articles.

Here's the URL of Dr. Poehler's article:

And here is the URL of one of Dr. Kaku's articles titled "A Scientific Critique of the Accident Risks from the Cassini Space Mission":

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (Cassini Mission False and True)

A specific reply to this document appears under the title "FALSE, TRUE... and TRUER. An answer to a NASA/JPL document.". NASA won't add a link to our rebuttal, or our web site, at all. Here's the URL of our rebuttal to this document:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (Spacecraft Power for Cassini)

This URL is not a working link for some reason, so I'm not sure which page it refers to.


The letter from the MoD to our correspondent's MP:

"The Cassini craft will be powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators which depend on the decay of plutonium dioxide for their energy. Plutonium dioxide is not a weapons grade material.

This statement is a big change over previous versions of similar statements which NASA used to make. For one thing they took out the word "natural" which used to be included before the word "decay". Since plutonium is virtually NEVER found in nature and all working quantities of it are man-made, the word "natural" which you will find in all earlier NASA documents, was and will remain inappropriate. So it's nice to not see it at last.

Also, I see they have reworded the last sentence from previous versions which stressed that Pu 238, the main form of plutonium on board Cassini, is not "weapons grade plutonium". About 15% of the plutonium is Pu 239, which was the main form of the plutonium released in atmospheric weapons testing. Pu 238 is far more dangerous when inhaled than Pu 239 because it has a far faster radioactive decay rate -- about 280 times faster, with a correspondingly shorter half-life. This distinction is ignored here (in NASA's statement).

What NASA has decided to stress instead, is that the dioxide form of the plutonium makes it difficult and expensive to turn into "weapons grade plutonium" but I do not know just how expensive, or how difficult, or if indeed, it is absolutely impossible. However, the bottom line is that Pu 238, the main form used on Cassini, is a far, far greater health hazard than Pu 239, the main form used in nuclear weapons. So yeah, maybe it's not weapons-grade. It's worse...

The Principles on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources (NPS) in Outer Space adopted by the UN in 1992 emphasise "the use of NPS shall be restricted to those space missions which cannot be operated by non-nuclear energy sources in a reasonable way". In the case of Cassini/Huygens, NASA concluded that it would be difficult to rely on other energy sources because of the duration and distance of the mission and the need for the spacecraft to be light enough to be launched and reach Saturn"

First of all "difficult" and "impossible" are two different things. We never said it would be easy to get to Saturn. But evidently "difficult" means "impossible" to NASA.

Second, Cassini is no "light" mission! It is a gargantuan, bloated pork barrel of a mission, with far more major and minor experiments that necessary. It is "heavy" not "light". A slightly smaller mission could easily have been designed around a solar alternative, or perhaps a hybrid (solar and fuel cell) design.

It is clear that NASA considers its dishonest behavior to be in compliance somehow with the Principles on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources (NPS) in Outer Space adopted by the UN in 1992. First of all, it is clear that the wording of the Principals must therefore be inadequate, since there is no way Cassini with it's 72.3 pounds of mostly plutonium 238 dioxide had to be flown at all. But exactly how much plutonium is too much? I think a moratorium on ANY plutonium in space would be reasonable, until we have had proper hearings and studies about it's effects -- and some attempt should be made to find out if the world wants this, at all! But at least, a number telling us how much is too much.

The UN Principles missed the point by not naming a number. I have asked many pro-nuclear Cassini people just how much they would consider too much plutonium. Would a Cassini mission with 723 pounds of plutonium dioxide be too much? How about 7,230 pounds -- nearly 4 tons? What about 72,300 pounds?

They tell me I'm getting ridiculous, of course, but somewhere along the line, a number needs to be stated. For those who would assault us with 72.3 pounds of plutonium, how much would be too much even for them?

They ask me the opposite question, namely, what about protesting Mars Pathfinder, which took off with about 7 grams of plutonium -- about 1/5000th as much as on Cassini? Maybe it is reasonable to protest that too -- 1/5000th as strongly as we have protested Cassini.

But we are discussing Cassini, and 72.3 pounds of plutonium dioxide, consisting of about 50 pounds of plutonium 238 and 12 pounds of other plutonium isotopes, and of course, the balance is oxygen. That's lots of really deadly stuff which NASA has gotten away with and now relaxes in glee, figuring there is no way we can stop the flyby... We shall see.


In Peace

Cath at Manchester CND

Greater Manchester and District CND (

------ [brought to us by]... ------------

Peace! Rob, Sector Air Raid Warden at
Rob's Place


Last set of comments to this document (so far) by:

Russell D. Hoffman


*** Hurray for the Dutch President (of IPPNW)!


Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 09:01:56 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Cassini in Germany (fwd)
To: Abolition 2000 Network (

Dear All,

This sure is great news. I also like to stress the same was true for The Netherlands. Although we didn't let you know on the abolition- caucus our organization has done a lot of work the last few months to put the dangers of Cassini in the media. We had a press release two weeks ago and where one of the few Dutch NGO's to raise attention for Cassini (even Greenpeace was quite reluctant). This however has been very successful. Every national and regional newspaper has put attention to the Cassini issue. On October 3rd Dr.Kaku was on primetime television to tell the story.

Yesterday our president explained on primetime news the dangers of a Cassini accident. And most important, everyone is talking about the Plutonium-238 and not about the importance of the mission itself.


Hans van Iterson
Dutch medical association for peace research
Dutch affiliate of IPPNW
| NVMP Secretariaat
Mail to:


*** Some old news, put here "for the record":


Cassini fans, foes face rising tension

By Seth Borenstein of The Sentinel Staff

Published in The Orlando Sentinel, October 14, 1997


A computer glitch on the space probe and a problem with a battery tester on the ground helped contribute to the delay, which mostly was weather-related.

``It was a myriad of all three things,'' NASA spokesman George Diller said. Wind was chief among them.

``The winds just blew you out of the ballgame,'' Nowak said.


If the rocket doesn't launch by Nov. 4, the alignment of the planets will change and add up to 17 months to the journey. Such a delay would add tens of millions of dollars to the $3.3 billion mission, officials said.

[Posted 10/13/97 10:28 PM EST]


*** From the mailbag: Is every bit of knowledge worth any risk?



Thank you for your email. My answers are interspersed.

At 02:01 PM 10/30/97 "CK" wrote: Progress, even at the risk of human life, is critical to the bigger picture of all existence.

True, but you have to set some limits. One of our main objections is simply that NASA misrepresents Cassini's dangers. Combined with misrepresenting the alternatives, one is left with total chaos -- not science. How does one make a fair decision without the facts? Before you can simply say "Progress is worth a risk to human life" you have to set a number. It's those SPECIFIC numbers that NASA has presented which we disagree with or challenge them to prove, not the basic concept that progress entails some degree of risk.

A picture bigger than anything we could ever try to preserve by holding that progress up.

Again, you have to define your generalities to move the discussion forward. I think NASA presented a lot of lies to get Cassini past an unsuspecting public, as I have stated in, for example, my rebuttal to NASA's rebuttal of my comments on their Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Especially, please review section 2-12(e) about NASA lies. Here is the URL of the final rebuttal:

The point is, that NASA bad science has outstripped any possible gain from NASA good science on this mission. What NASA has done is a disgrace to science.

Life, for all of its splendor and beauty, is individually finite and expendable ultimately.

That is the most disgusting of generalities in your generally trite letter. You simply are stating, in flowery words and flowing terms, that you think that just because we all die, it's okay that we do things that kill people or shorten their lives. Well, it's just not like that. Each life is precious to the individual, so precious that nothing, not any amount of money or fame, friendship or festive lifestyle can buy. Which is not to say there are not many things one would be willing to die for. But "little or nothing" is never one of them, and that is what we feel NASA presents us with here. The full science return as opposed to the full potential of an accident, combined with what the alternatives are, combined with what NASA did to minimize the liability without minimizing the real dangers (a sleaze-ball move, at best) -- all these balance lives against the possible science gain of a fully successful mission. Sure, lives are traded for knowledge all the time, and for a great many other things as well. But at least ideally, lives are never traded for nothing or next to nothing. If you give 5 billion people a little dose of plutonium as NASA says a Cassini flyby accident can do (and we don't dispute it!), you are going to loose future scientists. And current scientists. People will be plucked untimely from their lives and done in by a random cancer. NASA's actions will not be directly attributable to their effects.

NASA says that of these 5 billion who will get a dose, any dose, only about 120, or one in about 4 million, will die from a Cassini flyby accident. That is an untested hypotheses. It is also a generality, because the local wind conditions at the time of the reentry, and its location, are important determinants in defining the actual effects. NASA guesswork is atrociously bad science. Yet you approve of it with generalities.

There is nothing move valuable than time to each and every one of us, and to society as a whole. The elders know more than the youngsters. I think votes should count equal to your age in dog years or maybe rat years. The older you get, the more valuable your vote becomes, up to several times the value of a young person's vote. I would deduct value from your vote every time you fail to vote in an election. The point is, people are NOT "ultimately expendable". They are ultimately precious, each and every one of them.

But I guess you would wipe out everyone, or at least some undefined number or people (or perhaps you accept NASA's guesswork) calling them "expendable", in your quest for obtuse answers to what Saturn looks like up close. Even when alternatives (solar) are (solar) staring you in the face, such as solar or perhaps solar/fuel cell hybrid systems, and, of course, a slightly scaled back mission. You find people expendable for laziness, gluttony, and greed, for NASA is guilt of all three, in addition to their bad science. I do not.

We are part of a much bigger machine that forces those who understand this premise to accept this reality.

Right again, this game is for keeps. We can blindly assign the statement "everything has its risks" to anything that might be more dangerous than staying home and working out in your private gym, or we can delve into some of the problems and try to solve them, from Russian subs rotting in bays off the North Sea, to an uncleaned-up Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, to the Depleted Uranium question, to Ward Valley, and on and on down the list to Cassini. Or we can make simplistic statements and not be offended at any level, by anything, even when such obvious lies and propaganda occurs as NASA used. Just offer a few platitudes and move on. "Don't worry, it's worth the risks." Has that been true, in your opinion, for everything? Was it true for the 1964 SNAP 9-A accident? Because in sworn testimony, Dr. Karl Z. Morgan stated that NASA officials told him it had a one in 10 million chance of reentering Earth's atmosphere and incinerating. Yet it did, and at the time the plutonium payloads were designed to incinerate in the upper atmosphere. There were about 17,000 Curies of plutonium on that rocket.

Lighten up.

Give me one good reason to, when there are still people like you out there, who let people like NASA get away with things like Cassini.

Actually, if you read my STOP CASSINI newsletters and articles posted at the web site, you might actually realize that I've cracked quite a few jokes along the way. In fact, you might even find yourself ROFL despite your opposition to my statements. So lighten up, yourself. I first mixed humor with my anti-nuclear viewpoints in 1979 with a comedy routine called Three Mile Island Beatles which made Dr. Demento's Funny Five, and then a followup called No Cause For Alarm about Chernobyl in 1986. But I think I've actually written my best comedy over Cassini, and I will continue to do so as the spirit (I mean that figuratively, I think) moves me.

I do find great humor in the way NASA has so far handled this latest "burr under their saddle" as one person called me, perhaps now becoming more, maybe a thorn in their side. So far they have ignored me, right through the launch they ignored me, other than the obligatory shallow answering of my official commentary on their April 1997 DSEIS, but I suspect they cannot continue to do that for much longer. I heard, after the launch, that a prominent, senior senator's office referred someone to my web site as a voice of the opposition. Right now NASA thinks that the opposition will go away after the launch. But since most people objected to the flyby most of all, all along, NASA has another think coming.

Sooner or later, NASA will have to link their web site to the opposition web sites such as mine and a half dozen or so others, and when they are compelled by public opinion to do that, they will then have to start answering our objections.

The longer they wait, well, thorns fester if they are not pulled. For NASA to pull this thorn they must answer, one by one, our statements, and I am sure I will find great cause for delight when that starts to happen...

Thanks again for writing!

Russell Hoffman
Editor, Stop Cassini newsletter
Webmaster, Stop Cassini web site


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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