leaflet above was advertising a protest I organized at the space
center in Florida in 1989. This was during the period from 1987-1997
were we held one large protest after the other against the
weaponization of space.
Sometimes there were 500 people there, frequently about 1,000 came,
and our biggest ever was more than 5,000.
Just today my son Julian, who grew up attending these events during
his childhood, sent me an email with a link to a book written by
Suelette Dreyfus with Research by Julian
Assange that was published in 1997. The book was
Front Page. You can find the book
Julian told me, "One of the debate topics for the Harvard tournament
WikiLeaks and I've been
doing a lot of research on Julian
Assange. Here's a link to
a book he worked on...read the first chapter!!!"
So I dutifully clicked on the link.
Much to my surprise I found that the authors began their book with
an account of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice's 1989
campaign to oppose
NASA's launch of the
Galileo plutonium-238 space probe that garnered international media
coverage. This was the first of three major nukes in space campaigns
that I led (the others Ulysses in 1990 and
Cassini in 1997).
The authors wrote:
For weeks, the
protesters had been out in force, demonstrating and seizing media
attention. Things had become very heated. On Saturday, 7 October,
sign-wielding activists fitted themselves out with gas masks and
walked around on street corners in nearby Cape Canaveral in protest.
At 8 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, NASA started the countdown for the
Thursday blast-off. But as Atlantis's clock began ticking toward
take-off, activists from the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice
demonstrated at the centre's tourist complex.
That these protests
had already taken some of the shine off
bold space mission was the least of the agency's worries. The real
headache was that the Florida Coalition told the media it would `put
people on the launchpad in a non-violent protest'. The coalition's
put the threat in folksy terms, portraying the protesters as the
little people rebelling against a big bad government agency.
of the Foundation on Economic Trends, another protest group, also
drove a wedge between `the people' and `NASA's
people'. He told UPI, `The astronauts volunteered for this mission.
Those around the world who may be the victims of radiation
contamination have not volunteered.'
I'll always remember the 1989 launch of Galileo because it was
delayed over and over again for about a week. The international
media was gathered at the Kennedy Space Center tourist area with
nothing much to do so each day during that week we'd assemble as
many activists as we could get and hold another vigil and news
conference which helped us tremendously get the word out around the
world about the deadly plutonium space launch.
In chapter 1 of this book is a whole section about a computer worm
that got planted inside of
NASA's computers during
this very time. Was the Galileo delay due to a hacker trying to help
us stop that launch? Was a hacker also trying to symbolically "sit
on the launch pad"? We've got to learn more about this story. I've
already pointed it out to journalist Karl
Grossman who helped us break the Galileo story open in
It just goes to show that you never know who is paying attention to
your efforts. Who could have known that Julian
Assange, who has
become such a big name due to his courageous work with Wiki Leaks,
moved enough by our
campaign to feature it in the first chapter of his book? Maybe it
was because it was a classic story about out-of-control technology
and the "little peoples" reaction. Any way you cut it one has to
acknowledge that it has a nice twist.
One side story should be told here as well. My son Julian was nine
years old in 1989 and one day I came home and he had my gas mask on.
In his most serious voice he told me, "Don't worry Dad, if Galileo
blows up I could wear this gas mask for the rest of my life." He was
trying to make me feel better. His words cut right to my heart and
my soul and virtually every day since that time I have stayed true
to the cause because I believe that no child, my own or anyone
ever have to think of living in a radioactive wasteland wearing a
gas mask for their whole life.
Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
Thank God men cannot
fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.
Henry David Thoreau
More detail showing how involved Assange was during our 1989
campaign in Florida to stop the plutonium launch of Galileo space
mission can be found here:
"JULIAN Assange has told the story of his
childhood and adolescence twice - most recently to a journalist from
The New Yorker, Raffi Khatchadourian, and some 15 years ago,
secretly but in greater detail, to Suelette Dreyfus, the author of a
fascinating book on the first generation of computer hacking,
Underground, for which Assange was the primary researcher ...
... Nothing about Assange has ever been straightforward. One
of the main characters in Underground is the Melbourne hacker Mendax.
Although there is no way readers at that time could have known it,
Mendax is Julian Assange.
IN the late 1980s, Assange joined the underground subculture
of hacking that was forming in Melbourne. By October 1989 an attack
was mounted from Australia on America's NASA computer system via the
introduction of what was called the WANK worm, in an attempt to
sabotage the Jupiter launch of the Galileo rocket as part of an
action of anti-nuclear activists.
In an article he later published in the left-wing magazine
CounterPunch, Assange would claim the WANK worm attack was "the
origin of hacktivism"...