re: Cassini


Jan Slakov

Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 09:27:04 +0000
From: Paul Swann <•••@••.•••>
Subject:  Re: rn: against militarization of space, Cassini 

Dear Jan,

We seem to have got away with it this time...but NASA has eight more planned:

From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <•••@••.•••>
Founder and Editor, Stop Cassini newsletter
To:  Friends and interested parties, media, government
Subject: Re: Feedback -- STOP CASSINI #178 (still thinking about a new name
for the
Date: August 18th,1999

This issue's subjects:

*** (1) Knight-Ridder article on Cassini best of the lot
*** (2) From the mailbag: Cassini day-by-day thoughts (a poem)
*** (3) From the mailbag: LOVEARTH checks in
*** (4) From the mailbag: Thanks pour in (much appreciated)
*** (5) From the mailbag: A suggestion dripping with irony (or something)
*** (6) Official JPL report on the Earth flyby
*** (7) What you can do today to stop NASA's nuclear madness
*** (8) Subscription information

*** (1) Knight-Ridder article on Cassini best of the lot:

----- FROM RADBULL, AUGUST 17TH, 1999: -----

  11  Space probe worries anti-nuclear activists

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON--Rocketing with pinpoint accuracy and carrying 72
pounds of plutonium, an 11,000-pound NASA space probe is expected
to zip past Earth tonight just 725 miles above the planet.

As the $3.3 billion Cassini probe wends its way on a planned
seven- year flight toward Saturn, Tuesday's flyby is intended
simply as a routine maneuver to get a giant slingshot-like boost
>from Earth's gravity on its 2.2 billion-mile trek.

What makes this whip-around--with almost three times the momentum
of the probe's October 1997 launch--scary is that it involves
swinging lots of deadly plutonium close to Earth at 42,000 mph.
At 11:28 p.m. EDT, Cassini is expected to bank above Pitcairn
Island in the Pacific and make a sharp turn toward the outer

So far Cassini has flown so precisely that NASA canceled three of
its 12 planned engine firings as unnecessary to correct its
course, and the engine isn't even expected to turn on again until
after it passes Earth.

"I can't conceive of any way" the probe can go off target and hit
Earth, NASA Cassini program manager Bob Mitchell said. " We've
got two years of experience flying this thing. What we're finding
is that the development team that built and tested this thing
just did an exceptionally good job."

But anti-nuclear activists, who first feared a launch explosion
and then a badly plotted course, fret about the possibility of a
last- minute glitch that could kill tens of thousands of people.
Even minute quantities of the plutonium, which powers the
satellite, could be deadly.

As Cassini nears Earth, it will enter an area where thousands of
pieces of space junk float, the activists note. The junk, they
theorize, could send the probe into Earth's atmosphere, where it
would partially burn and release the plutonium.

"Cassini will be entering the belt in the last half-hour of the
flyby," said Michio Kaku, a prominent theoretical physics
professor at City College of New York and one of the most vocal
Cassini opponents. "One paint fleck could just blow Cassini apart
and send it spiraling to Earth."

But with so much space between the pieces of debris, NASA said,
the chance that Cassini will hit a piece of junk larger than 1
gram is 1 in 13 million. It has a 1 in 40,000 chance of hitting a
piece smaller than 1 gram.

"However, the spacecraft speed is so high at this point in the
mission that no collision with space debris could provide enough
energy to put the spacecraft or its [plutonium] on an impact
course with Earth," the agency said in its final environmental
impact report.

Kaku concedes it is unlikely, but he worries that Cassini's
success will cause NASA to want to do more missions involving
plutonium, and compares that to Russian roulette.

NASA plans eight more missions that would use plutonium and a few
probes that may swing by Earth. Cassini is expected to whip
around Jupiter in December 2000 and arrive at Saturn in 2004.


We are as pleased as can be to have finally seen a well-written report
about the flyby!  Congratulations to Knight-Ridder and writer Seth
Borenstein! -- rdh

We would just note that the risk from a debris collision near Earth -- the
"40,000" plus "1 in 13 million" added together -- represented a danger not
so much for a reentry yesterday, as for one some random time in the
future.  In fact we still are at a risk of Cassini returning!  All that has
to happen is for it to go dead and then drift aimlessly (perhaps for
decades first) into our path.  A micrometeor collision might have actually
occurred yesterday, but the effect won't be noticed until later when some
part is moved or turned on for the first time.

We will not be safe from Cassini until it has crashed into Jupiter or
Saturn or one of their moons (and polluted that place instead).  Or until
the radiation subsides over 1000 years from now for the Pu 238 (half life:
87.75 years) and half a million years from now for the Pu 239 (half life:
24,131 years). -- rdh


*** (7) What you can do today to stop NASA's nuclear madness:

NASA needs to be told in no uncertain terms NEVER to launch nuclear rockets
of any type ever again!

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:

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:

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