STOP CASSINI Newsletter #180 -- August 29th, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

To: Subscribers, Press, Public Officials

From: Russell D. Hoffman, Founder and Editor

Re: Letter to ABC News regarding flyby speed discrepancies: STOP CASSINI #180

Date: August 29th, 1999

This Issue's Subjects:

(1) Letter to ABC News August 29th, 1999

The letter shown below was sent to ABC news this morning. It discusses the wildly discrepant values that NASA is giving for the actual speed of the Cassini flyby a few weeks ago. It starts slow for people interested solely in nuclear issues but please keep reading! If you click on all the links, (at least right now as I send this) the story will bear itself out completely and you will see what fools the major medias be, and your time will have been well spent, I promise! -- rdh

Note added August 31st, 1999: See newsletter #181 (the next issue) for an explanation of the differences! -- rdh]


To: The Producers/Owners/Editors/Webmasters at ABC NEWS
From: Russell D. Hoffman (contact information appears below)
Re: Recent news items (Home Depot, Cassini, Y2K) -- your bias is showing throughout.
Date: August 29th, 1999

(Note to whoever at ABC NEWS reads this message FIRST: This letter is important, and I beg of you not to let any upper management person stop you from tracking its passage through the ABC news "system". The points I am making are of vital interest to a free and democratic society, and I have worked on these issues for thousands of hours. Please take the personal responsibility necessary to see that this letter reaches the highest levels of management at your news department. I wish to have the opportunity to set the record straight, and that may not happen without your taking a personal interest in the matter. This letter is not so long that it needs to be skimmed. You can check every link and (unless someone changes something) you will see that my quotes are accurate and the story I am telling is utterly true. Thank you in advance. -- rdh)

To the Producers/Owners/Editors/Webmasters at ABC NEWS:

I wish to comment on several items, starting with your poll regarding the Home Depot boycott, available to people at this URL:

A careful look at the wording of the question at that web page makes it impossible to give a reasonable answer.

If I say I am "more likely" to buy from Home Depot now, I have just supported the lie that taking until 2002 to "phase out" old growth sales is environmentally friendly. How many square miles of forest will be sold in the meantime? If the agreement was that Home Depot would phase old-growth tree sales out "immediately" I might accept it as a legitimate choice.

If I say I am "less likely" to buy from Home Depot, you have worded the question so that it implies that I think Home Depot should not have "caved in" to the "environmentalists" ("environmentalism" being something which media such as yourself often sees as one distinct viewpoint but which is in fact, many viewpoints, including scientific, theological, cultural, spiritual, etc. etc. aspects).

If I choose "door #3" -- that the agreement won't affect my decision -- I should be able to add whether or not I am currently boycotting Home Depot and will continue to do so (which is exactly what I'm doing and will continue to do). Since I can't make that clear, then #3 is utterly useless, except to make it look like ABC NEWS has covered all the bases. You've done a good job of that: Some activists are indeed recommending people click on your poll and vote, on the theory that voting at all is doing something useful for the environmental movement. But in this case, I don't think it is. The way this poll is worded, the only good vote for the environment is not to vote at all and to denounce the poll itself as useless for environmentalists to express their views, which is what I am doing.

If, on the other hand, someone thinks Home Depot should sell old-growth trees any time they want, then just about any answer will suffice to show some level of support for that policy.

Thus, your poll is utterly useless at best and misleading at worst. Certainly you should be embarrassed to be presenting it in either case.

I also want to take this opportunity to mention the biased and unfair coverage regarding the recent Cassini space probe's flight past Earth on August 17th - 18th, 1999:

But worse than just being biased and unfair, it introduces some serious discrepancies into the Cassini debate regarding the speed of the space probe during the Earth flyby. That URL contains the following statement:

"The spacecraft approached Earth at about 72,000 mph. Because it zoomed past in the same direction as Earth’s orbit, it got a speed boost via what is called the 'gravitational slingshot effect' and sped away at about 80,000 mph."

This is an 8,000 mile per hour difference, but the speed boost was about 12,000 miles per hour (5.5 Kilometers per second), according to a NASA/JPL press release from August 17, 1999 (presumably sent out right AFTER the flyby). In fairness to you, some other media reports quote the same figures as your site, but by no means all.

Prior to the flyby, NASA had been saying the speed would be boosted to somewhere in the low 40's in thousands of miles per hour, not nearly as fast as 80,000 miles per hour. And it's a very good thing too! At the speeds you have mentioned, in the event of a flyby reentry accident there would be no question that the containment system NASA loves (RTGs, "Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) would not have been any use at all, AND the chance of the probe releasing plutonium 238 vapor all the way to ground level would have been significantly increased as well.

Why the gross discrepancies between NASA's previous statements about what the speed would be, and those being published now? And why does your report and several other reports say Cassini received an 8,000 mile per hour speed boost, when NASA/JPL's own report gives it as 12,000 miles per hour? Who's checking for continuity of these various facts? No one, it seems!

But there has to be an explanation, doesn't there? Speeds don't change like that overnight. (Cassini took nearly two years to gain the first 40,000 miles per hour, for instance!)

And lest we make a mountain out of a mole hill (which we are not in fact doing, but just supposing we were -- ) note that these are only the most obvious errors in your Cassini coverage. It is shoddy throughout (and doesn't even link to my STOP CASSINI web site, where these sorts of things have been discussed in detail for several years now). "It was right by the book" says Bob Mitchell in your article. Which book? Not one with NASA's own previous statements!

After finding the discrepancies in your article with what was expected prior to the flyby, I compared them to other reports and to NASA's own information. Here's what I found so far:

At this web page today, August 29th, 1999:
NASA gives the current speed of Cassini as 133,158 kilometers per hour. The conversion factor to miles per hour is .6214, so that would convert to a speed of a little over 81,000 miles per hour, about what your article suggests. Bob Mitchell at NASA is quoted giving the same values in other media articles (see below). (Anyone clicking on that link any time in the next 15 months or so from today (August 29th, 1999) will get a lower number (until Cassini gets close to its next "victim" planet -- Jupiter, on its way towards Saturn) because right now Cassini is slowing down a little bit each day as it travels away from the Sun.)

At this web page the BBC gives their figures, which are close to the ones I expected to see, although 46,000 mph is a good deal faster than 42,300 mph (though it might not seem so to the average person):
"The effect of the Earth's gravity is expected to boost its speed from about 56,000 km/h (35,000mph) to more than 74,000km/h (46,000mph)."

At this page, CNN (whose article is actually worse than yours, if such a thing is possible) gives these values:
"Cassini approached Earth at about 35,000 mph. Its speed increased by about 5.5 km per second (12,000 mph) after the swingby." CNN calls it a nuclear-powered craft, which isn't very accurate, since it's just the heat of radioactive decay which is used to generate a modest amount of electricity for the scientific experiments via thermocouples, an idea that we got from the Russians nearly 50 years ago. The "power" to maneuver, accelerate, or decelerate the probe comes from thousands of pounds of highly explosive liquid fuel and liquid oxygen.

Note that like you, CNN also does not link to my STOP CASSINI web site (URL given below), and in fact links to a site that has nothing to do with Cassini one way or the other! Which site is that? The "Astronomical Society of India". They undoubtedly meant to link to the Astronomical Society of Bangladesh, of which F. R. Sarker is the Secretary General. He had this to say about CNN's linking to India in a recent letter to me:


From "F. R. Sarker"

Your views about the news of CNN is absolutely right. It was not Astronomical Society of India but Bangladesh Astronomical Society [which] had the credit of participating in the Anti-Cassini movements. I am grateful to you that you have raised objection against CNN about this News supporting the Anti-Cassini activities in Bangladesh instead of India. Recently, I went to India to participate [in the] Total Solar Eclipse observation programme on August 11 from a site in the state of Gujarat about 20km south of border with Pakistan. Thousands of astronomers coming from different parts of India had converged into that site. I asked a number of Indian astronomers whether they had done any Anti-Cassini demonstration in India, they replied simply 'No ". Many of them had no idea what was Cassini. One astronomer from Confederation of Indian Amateur Astronomers told me that he had idea about Cassini, it is a division in the rings of Saturn.


Here is Mr. Sarker's contact information:

F. R. Sarker
General Secretary
Section-6, Block-A, Lane-2, House-7
Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tel : 88-02-801335
Fax : 88-02-804310
Email :

A photo of the June 12th demonstration in Bangladesh is available at the home page of the Cassini NOFLYBY web site, which the CNN article links to (so you might have thought they would have gotten "Bangladesh" correct, not giving "India" by accident, wouldn't you?):

At this page FOX NEWS has these values:
" it a 5.5 km (3.4 mile) per second boost in speed". That looks correct, although they don't give the actual speeds, which negates the honesty of their brief article in other ways but was not all that uncommon in the various media reports by unwitting journalists (or perhaps in some cases, totally witless journalists). Why is the speed so important? Ablation, disintegration, and vaporization. Why not ask your own columnist/space speaker James Oberg about the technicalities of space travel and the added danger 80,000+ mph might present over a speed of 42,300 mph (though I strongly suggest you NOT bother to ask him about the dangers of low level radiation, because I am convinced he has not researched the issue properly!). He knows a lot about some of these things, though and is a ready source you can check.

Space Chronicles has a page about Cassini too:
"The spacecraft approached Earth at about 72,000 mph and sped away at about 80,000 mph, said Bob Mitchell, Cassini's program director." (Space Chronicles is part of the Houston Chronicle.)

This matches your numbers, so I guess you may have used information directly from NASA Cassini program manager Bob Mitchell. But why were NASA's published and spoken numbers prior to the flyby about half as much? (If you're wondering why I don't ask him myself, I will try, but I think you have an even greater responsibility to ask the same question. After all, it was you (and others) who published this new and frighteningly faster figure!)

Space Daily did not give speed values:

Nor did Space Views:

MSNBC had a page about Cassini, but they took it down. You'd think they would know better than to remove an article once they had posted it:

MSNBC does have articles posted about Cassini, but apparently not that one from the flyby. Below is what MSNBC was saying shortly after the launch in 1997. Note the far lower flyby height as well as the far slower speed. Flyby heights are traditionally raised by NASA in stages AS IF THEY WERE RESPONDING TO ACTIVIST'S CONCERNS (they even sometimes say that is why, and certainly all the media proclaim it to be true). In fact no real activist was the least bit satisfied by that action for Cassini (which is not to say any were disappointed to see it raised, only that it is like asking whether you prefer being shot at by a hair's breadth or by an inch and a quarter. Sure, an inch and a quarter is better. But we prefer not to be shot at at all!:
"Activists worry that a miscalculation or accident could lead to a plutonium release during the Earth flyby in 1999, when Cassini is due to pass within 500 miles of our planet at 42,300 mph."

Originally, the flyby height NASA wanted was just 312 miles above the surface of the Earth (Galileo, 10 years earlier, did a flyby even closer than that, at under 200 miles above the surface of the Earth). According to the New York Public Library's science desk reference, our atmosphere sometimes goes out as far as 600 miles during solar storms (such as we were having around the times Cassini arrived). At 80,000 mph (or even at 42,300 mph) Cassini can get seriously toasted even in extremely thin atmospheres (ours, or some other planets').

But especially note the speed in the above citation: 42,300 is NOT 80,000! 42,300 is by far the most common figure given prior to the flyby and not so different from the figure some sources are still giving.

Even at 42,300 miles per hour, the speed is way beyond the speeds at which NASA tested any of the components. I would like to know which employee(s) of ABC NEWS would be able to deny or affirm that fact? Can Kenneth Chang, the author of your article? Can he tell me what NASA said would happen to the RHUs in a flyby reentry, or even tell me what "RHU" stands for (Radioactive Heater Unit). Why don't you call him and ask him RIGHT NOW? There are about 130 RHUs on board Cassini, with a total of about 4,000 Curies of plutonium, or about 1% of the total. NASA makes no bones deep in their documentation that the RHUs would NOT have survived a flyby reentry of Cassini. Why not call Kenneth Chang right now and see if he knows this? Ask him if he knows of any NASA spokesperson who has actually mentioned the RHUs in any conversation with any reporter in the last two years. I'll bet the answers in "no". I bet he doesn't even know what RHUs do (they provide small amounts of heat for the instrumentation. This could be done many other ways). Plutonium was no more needed there than for the modest amount of electricity it provided (about 740 watts) which could have been provided by solar power. Or would you rather believe people who tell you the flyby will be at 42,300 miles per hour and then let you write that it was 80,000 miles per hour, making total fools of you in the process (or liars of themselves, of both).

Many other sources can be found giving a value of 42,300 mph or something close, not this new value. So what happened?

Whatever the source of the discrepancy, it is pretty clear from the ABC NEWS report that your writer simply parroted whatever NASA told them, or he would have already asked these questions and have published an explanation of this amazing difference between what we were told the speed would be and what we are now being told it in fact was! Furthermore, it's pretty clear that either NASA spokesperson Bob Mitchell spoke terribly incorrectly (which I would tend to believe, if only the "simulator" they have at the NASA web site doesn't also indicate a speed of around 82,000 miles per hour today) or else prior to the flyby NASA lied about the expected speed. But remember -- they got the time within SECONDS of the "projected" time! (or so they tell us, although the exact second was never actually published prior to the flyby, as far as I know.) Getting the time right was really no great feat, because small speed adjustments let NASA pretty much set the time at whatever they like (again, your James Oberg can confirm and explain these minor technical details, I'm sure). But getting the right time shows they should have been able to tell us what the real speed would be long, long ago. Yet they never mentioned prior to the flyby that the speed had been increased from 42,300 mph to 80,000 mph! And you haven't even questioned the difference! (And other major news media (such as the BBC, shown above) aren't all matching your, Bob Mitchell's or JPL's simulator's numbers.)

The fact is, your own bias is clear throughout, AGAINST science and humanity (and truth and consistent reporting) and FOR NASA's lies. And I am deeply and personally offended by what you have done. Indeed, you have shamed the institution of news reporting, and all of your fellow reporters, and additionally you have insulted all of your readers. You should be ashamed.

And you aren't helping our nation's forests, either, with your phony polls and propagandistic reporting. You are not serving the nation. You are not serving humanity. And you are certainly not serving any God I have ever heard of (we are, after all, talking about cancers, leukemias and birth defect from Cassini, and the lost of out nation's old-growth forests in the case of the Home Depot issue).

The Y2k-nuclear issue should be your next concern. I hope you will provide better coverage of that issue but I certainly haven't seen any media properly cover that problem yet and there are only 124 days left.

I have nearly 20 years of computer programming experience and -- coincidentally -- have also interviewed probably 20 of the top 100 anti-nuclear scientists over the past 20 years. I assure you with all my heart, that America should be worrying about these nuclear power plants and the possibility of an accidental nuclear launch. My own Y2K web site is listed below in a collection of URLs.

But right now I am asking you for much more than a simple correction. It is your duty to find out when (and IF) NASA changed the flyby speed values, because from the day they went up (if indeed they did go up), NASA's entire Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini mission was rendered erroneous and in need of replacement, unless of course Bob Mitchell miss-spoke, and the JPL simulator is bogus, in which case it's pretty clear that many news organizations, including yours, did not check the information for consistency with prior official reports. The difference is astounding and if it is in fact true that the flyby occurred at more than 80,000 mph, then NASA should have announced that fact long, long ago, as soon as they knew. They (you) have a duty to the spirit of truth to do this. Somewhere along the line, either you have been hoodwinked and passed it on, or you have purposefully hoodwinked the public yourself. Something's screwy.

The Cassini mission was a publicity fiasco for NASA as it is, but this speed discrepancy is a "smoking gun" to use a term news people are familiar with. I hope you will act upon it and help me stop NASA from lying to you, to me, and to the public.

This email has been submitted through your web page at:

I would be very grateful to have a direct and permanent email address where future correspondence related to Cassini and other environmental issues can be sent. I have worked hard to learn the whole truth about the Cassini mission, and this discrepancy raises more questions than just about anything else I've seen in 2 1/2 years of studying the problem of nuclear space launches and flybys.


Russell D. Hoffman,
Carlsbad, California

Peace Activist, Environmentalist, High Tech Guru:

Founder and Editor of the Stop Cassini newsletter:

Learn the madness of NASA's ongoing nuclear policies! Visit the Stop Cassini web site:

Y2K worries? We've got em! Meltdowns, EMPs, Terrorism, you-name-it:

Facing facts: Learn about The Effects of Nuclear War here:

What is a half-life? (Compares Plutonium 238 to Plutonium 239)

What is the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)? Is nuclear war winnable?

Hug a tree! Read why it should matter to you what happens to the great Redwoods in California:

Why you need encryption: An interview with Phil Zimmerman:
(also available in Spanish)


(2) People of Pennsylvania: Do not re-elect Senator Rick Santorum!

Get a load of what this guy has done! Doesn't accept emails anymore -- you have to go fill out a form, which forces scads of manual labor (=$$$) in to the picture, and it means legitimate rags like my STOP CASSINI newsletter can no longer get to him -- period, unless some poor soul in Pennsylvania starts pasting one in for me whenever they come out. Even they can't forward them to the guy directly, as I have hoped some of them might be doing.

This is not being done for any of the reasons he claims. Rather it is simply to prevent proper action ON HIS PART from having to be taken ON BEHALF OF EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET to ensure that email from legitimate people is filtered properly and separately from REAL "junk email" which is what he really should be worrying about -- not the STOP CASSINI newsletter. That sort of thing is no threat to the system and he knows it. He should welcome everyone's opinion everywhere and should not put this impediment to hearing other voices. It's like lines at the post office. Ever wonder why there are ALWAYS lines at the post office, but seldom really bad ones? Because the post office has to make money, and if there is no line, then SOMEONE at the counter is doing nothing! But if the line is too long, customers complain and start to use alternative services, and be rude to the employees who then quit! So there is always a line at the post office. They take employees off the line and put them in the back sorting mail or filling out forms or whatever it is they do back there, if the line disappears.

So, all around America, people are made to wait in line so that the post office can make a tiny little bit more money. A virtually constant line of five or ten people at the post office is not uncommon, but no line? When does that ever happen nowadays?

In a similar fashion, this dumb-cluck Senator can't figure out how to follow-up email in such a way that he can handle receiving THE STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER without me having to go fill out a form.




If he doesn't want so many emails, he can follow up on legislation to make the "advertisements" and "mass mailings" disappear, such as by requiring every sender to have a valid name and address (such as I always use) and/or by sending a return letter every time which by itself is often enough to stop "junk emails".

He doesn't have to do THIS!


Russell Hoffman
Peace Activist
Internet Freedom Fighter
Founder and Editor, STOP CASSINI newsletter


Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 13:58:11 -0400
Subject: Rule: Re: Stop Europa Orbiter: STOP CASSINI #179 Aug 26th,
To: "Russell D. Hoffman"

Thank you for contacting me via e-mail.

I regret to inform you that the "" account is no longer active. Instead, my Internet home page ( provides an on-line form which you may use to contact me.

This on-line form has become a necessity as a result of the volume of e-mail that I receive on a daily basis. The form allows me to receive messages in a uniform format with your contact information immediately available. Using this method, I am able to most efficiently respond to your needs and concerns.

I understand that it requires a bit more time to visit the web site and use the form, but it is essential in preserving the electronic access Pennsylvania constituents enjoy as a part of this information age. It ensures that those who need access to their Senator have it, and that those who are simply advertising or sending other mass mailings do not interfere with that constituent access. I continue, however, to be on the lookout for new technologies which will simplify this process.

Thank you again for writing me with your concerns. Please do visit my home page so that I may receive your message.

Senator Rick Santorum


(3) United States Government official contact points:

NASA needs to be told in no uncertain terms NEVER to launch nuclear rockets of any type ever again and not to fly them by Earth ever (at any speed)!

To learn about the absurd excuses NASA used to launch Cassini and its 72.3 pounds of plutonium in 1997, ask them for the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini mission, and all subsequent documentation. At the same time, be sure to ask them for ANY and ALL documentation available on future uses of plutonium in space, including MILITARY, CIVILIAN, or "OTHER" (just in case they make a new category somehow!). To get this information, contact:

Cassini Public Information
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
(818) 354-5011 or
(818) 354-6478

NASA states that they do not have the resources anymore to answer most emails they receive. Liars! They have $13 billion dollars to play with. They can answer the public's questions!

Here's NASA's "comments" email address:

Daniel Goldin is the head of NASA. Here's his email address: or

Here's the NASA URL to find additional addresses to submit written questions to:


Be sure to "cc" the president and VP and your senators and congresspeople, too.

Always include your full name and postal address in all correspondence to any Government official of any country.

(8) Subscription information

Thanks for reading! Welcome new subscribers!

Home page of our STOP CASSINI movement:

This newsletter is free and is not distributed for profit.
To subscribe, simply email the editor at and state:
Please include a personal message of any
length and subject matter. Thank you!

To unsubscribe email me and say

Published by Russell D. Hoffman electronically.
Written in U.S.A.
Please distribute these newsletters EVERYWHERE!
What you do NEXT matters MOST OF ALL!
Even the smallest step forward helps. Really it does.
May God bless you for your help.
May there be a God to bless you for your help.
May the world be here tomorrow to receive God's blessing, because you helped.
Thank God (and the DoD) for the Internet!

Next issue (#181)
Previous issue (#179)



This article has been presented on the World Wide Web by:

The Animated Software Company
Mail to:
First placed online August 29th, 1999.
Last modified August 30th, 1999.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman