The Coastal Post - October, 1997

Plutonium RocketEarth's Future At Stake

By Stephen Simac

Radioactive grapenut-sized plutonium could shower the earth like glowing buckshot if a rocketship to Saturn malfunctions. The Cassini probe with 72.3 pounds of plutonium on board will be delayed from an October 6 launch from Florida, but NASA Chief Daniel Goldin declared he's firmly committed to its launch.

The air conditioning blower for the radioactive plutonium heaters inside the six-ton Cassini spacecraft shredded its foil and foam insulation. A minor glitch, in what Goldin admits is a complex gamble with the future of the Earth, or at least Florida's. The new launch date may be October 13.

If the launch with a Titan IV booster rocket fails 171 seconds after takeoff, like a Titan at Vandenberg in 1993, the radioactive hail might be limited to the peninsular state and Caribbean island nations. That Titan carried a $1 billion spy satellite. This Titan's lifting a $3.4 billion, plutonium baby. The European Space Agency has paid nearly $1 billion towards its cost.

America's Word

That's the reason Goldin gave for going ahead with the compromised launch. "We've made a commitment to the Europeans and I believe America's word has to count for something." Try to sell that to the Native Americans now, or the African nations which are next in line for radioactive fallout.

The odds of failure are between one in 10 or 20, according to John Pike, head of space policy at the Federation of American Scientists. NASA claims one in a million, but after the Challenger disaster their previous claims of one in 100,000 odds of failure went down to 1-76. How nice if the house can change the odds after the black ball tumbles.

NASA has calculated an intricate bank shot for Cassini. Getting off the planet with the plutonium intact is not tricky enough. After the probe does a double loop around Venus, it's headed straight back at our blue green home in 1999. The premeditated, sling-shot maneuver within 312 miles of earth's atmosphere to gain speed to reach Saturn in eight years is a treasonable action.

If it burn ups and vaporizes in the stratosphere as dust, NASA's own environmental impact statement said "4-5 billion people of the 7-8 billion on earth by 1999 would receive 99% or more of the radiation exposure." NASA claims the "health effects" of this as almost nil, but Dr. Ernest Sternglass, a radiological physicist at the University of Pittsburgh warns the death toll could be 30-40 million people.

It's The Atmosphere, Stupid

Even rocket scientists agree the third rock's ozone and radiation shields are unique in the solar system. Our atmospheric corona is crucial to our survival for another millennia. For all the hype about space travel and colonies on Mars, no one has explained carefully to the people that rockets and airplanes destroy the earth's ozone.

The irony of the space shuttle studying the widening ozone holes is never spelled out. The glory of humans in space, of adorable Mars explorers, of terra-farming the red planet will doom those left behind. Evolutionarily the species best suited to space travel are certain mushroom spores, octopus and jellyfish.

Martian Pictures Cheap!

If the Cassini fails it will be the tenth known space mission with plutonium aboard to go down, including six Russian Roulette launches. In 1964, 2.1 pounds of plutonium vaporized in the atmosphere and dispersed over "all continents and all latitudes." The Apollo 13 was carrying 8.3; the reentry went bad. It fell, according to NASA. Didn't make pounds and NASA jettisoned it when into the abyss of the Tonga Trench.

The Russians have clearly got to be stopped before they kill again. Their six failures include nuclear-powered satellites skidding across Canada and Chile, nuclear-powered subs littered across the seven seas, and Chernobyl, which doubled the background radiation on earth by itself. Recently they admitted that over 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs have been lost to the black market.

Ulysses Vs. Cyclops

Despite the proven risks, the plutonium payloads on space missions have been getting larger. The Ulysses, waiting on deck when the Challenger exploded, had 25 pounds on board. It was rescheduled for 1990. The Galileo missions to Jupiter in 1989 and beyond had 50 pounds. They're still working, because plutonium, the most toxic substance known, has a half-life of a quarter of a million years.

Goldin has said that the expensive Cassini will be "the last ship out of the port," in favor of "faster, better, cheaper" expeditions. He promised they will be plutonium powered, including the launch to Pluto in 1999 and nuclear powered colonies on the Moon and Mars. No concessions to alternatives are planned despite the European Space Agency's patent on solar panels with 25% efficiency, the breakthrough rate for outer solar system use.

These high-profile rockets are merely cover for a much more extensive military nuclearization of space. The military desires nuclear-powered rockets and plutonium-powered weapons in space, and is hard at work creating lasers, particle beams and hyper-velocity guns on battle platforms for space. Star Wars never died-like a hydra-headed serpent it has re-emerged as Ballistic Missile Defense. Suitcase Defense has yet to be funded.

The Air Force decided to go cheaper. They're testing Russian-made Topaz II nuclear reactors, which they got a deal on, for use in space. Even the experts agree they will go critical if immersed in water, and will break up on reentry in a failed launch.

They leak now, and will trail a shower of nuclear particles if put into orbit. Astronomers complaints delayed a 1995 launch, only until it can be lifted into a higher orbit with a more powerful rocket. Astronomers may believe they would have a better view without atmosphere, but they, too, will be left behind.

Men Are From Mars

Have you ever wondered if we once lived on Mars, until we turned it into a lifeless, dusty planet with war and farming practices? Landed here and started all over again.

Your government is poisoning you. The Russians are inept, but American generals have kept pace with them. They've poisoned their own soldiers and their citizens with radiation. Regularly and with malice aforethought.

You can wait for a study. Lung cancer incidence has risen steadily in the U.S. since 1945, while the percentage of smokers has gone down. Experts blame it on more toxic tobacco, radioactive tobacco fertilized with uranium-bearing phosphates, chemicals used to treat the tobacco, not on matching increases in radiation fallout.

Breast cancer rates in nuclear-powered counties are statistically higher, children's cancers are increasing, especially brain tumors and leukemia. Maybe it's not plutonium, there's plenty more environmental poisons, yet it is known to cause these diseases.

Dr. Karl Grossman, a professor of Journalism at SUNY, has dug out most of this information through the freedom of information act. Instead of the The New York Times, he has to publish in journals like Covert Action Quarterly.

The Chronicle buried the story inside. Their science propagandist, David Perlman, didn't mention plutonium in his first articles about the Cassini protests. These are growing, even Marin County registered one in March. Bruce Gagnon, director of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice in Gainesville is organizing an international protest at the gates of Cape Canaveral on October 4th.

That's a beautiful seashore. I remember another protest there in the '80s I was at, a similar nuclear weapons issue. We had camped out south of there on the banks of a lagoon. In the morning dolphins swam up near the shore and hung out a few yards away as we made coffee.

If you get emotional about something like the fate of our earth, you're considered suspect as a journalist or scientist, or anyone who wants their beliefs to be taken seriously. I'm not sure that we can stop this killing machine, but I know we must at least say NO.

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