CASSINI IS A BAD SEED
NASA and the Pentagon are carrying a bad seed into space. Since 1961, they have launched 24 nuclear-laden missions 3 of which have met with accidents. On October 6, 1997, NASA will launch the Cassini space probe to Saturn, with 72.3 pounds of plutonium on board. This mission is now drawing protest from around the world.
On Monday, June 23, 1997, Dr. Gerhard Strobl stated on German national television that his company, Angewandte Solarenergie, has developed high-efficiency solar cells for the European Space Agency which could be used to power the Cassini mission. NASA insists the mission is safe and that the plutonium generators on Cassini are indestructible. They also maintain that solar power will not work on deep space probes.
The Department of Energy (DOE), which has a spotty record with regard to being honest with the public, is responsible for testing the radioactive thermonuclear generators (RTGs) used to house the plutonium on board Cassini. An RTG test by DOE in 1988 for the plutonium-bearing Galileo mission to Jupiter actually blew the RTG apart. DOE threw out the test, stating that the pressures which resulted in the explosion would never happen in the real world. Since then, the public has learned that the DOE conducts single-event failure testing, while in the real world, multi-event failures most often occur (explosion, fire, flying fragments, etc.) which lead to disaster.
Between now and 2009, NASA plans to launch many more plutonium missions, including two nuclear reactors for mining colonies on Mars in 2007. As more and more nuclear payloads are launched from Cape Canaveral, the odds of a catastrophic accident increase.
Just as Columbus sailed to discover a new world, NASA and the nuclear industry view outer space as a new market. "Untold riches" await mining colonies on the Moon, Mars, and various asteroids. The Pentagon plans to send a space armada into the heavens much like Queen Isabella sent in the Spanish Armada to protect the riches of the New World. In the U.S. Space Command document "Vision for 2020," they state that "Space forces will emerge to protect military and commercial interests and investment in the space medium there will be a critical need to control space to ensure U.S. dominance...Robust capabilities to ensure space superiority must be developed."
And they are being developed. The industry publication "Space News" reported on May 5, 1997, that in late May, and anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon was tested. "The development of ASAT weapons is part of a larger U.S. effort to achieve space control including the ability to guarantee U.S. forces access to American satellites while denying the use of space to U.S. adversaries," the article stated.
The arms race is moving into space. A key technology necessary to accomplish U.S. Space Commands goal to control space (their uniform patch reads "Master of Space") is nuclear power. One Air Force document entitled, "New World Vistas: Air and Space Power in the 21st Century," spells it out clearly: "A natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space; however, this technology has to-date been considered unacceptable due to political and environmental limitations. Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space."
Missions like Cassini become icebreakers. They keep the nuclear laboratories in the United States working at full speed. For example, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge all worked on the Cassini program. These nuclear-powered deep space probe missions get Congress, the public, and the media accustomed to the use of nuclear materials in space.
Now is the time to stop NASA and the Pentagon from taking their bad seed of war, greed, exploitation and environmental destruction into space. Help us stop the nuclearization and weaponization of space. Please visit our web site at www.fcpj.org, or call the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice at 352/468-3295.
Bruce K. Gagnon
State Coordinator, FCPJ