Open Letter to NASA
8 January 2003
by Bruce Gagnon
Office of Space Science
We would very much appreciate hearing from you immediately about the amount (pounds/ounces) of plutonium-238, cobalt-57, and curium-244 to be used in each mission.
Our obvious concern begins with the processing of plutonium at DoE laboratories across the country. During 1994-96 there were 244 cases of worker contamination reported at Los Alamos labs while the RTG's for the Cassini mission were being fabricated. We know that NASA intends to expand production of space nuclear power in the coming years and that increased contamination of workers and communities will be the result.
In the event of a launch accident with either Mars rover mission, the NASA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) states that it is "likely" that some radioactive materials would be released into the environment. The same EIS shows a map of Florida with a 60 mile radius of "affected" areas.
Sooner or later, as NASA expands the number of plutonium launches from the space center, there will be an accident. One thing we know is that accidents do happen, often due to human failure. Mix plutonium into the equation and we face disaster.
Recent statements by the new director of NASA reveal the growing control of the space program by the Pentagon. We clearly see a link between NASA's "Nuclear Systems Initiative" and the long held desire of the military to power weapons in space with nuclear reactors. NASA and the DoE are serving as the Trojan horse, expanding research and development of space nuclear power that will eventually be used for war in the heavens.
NASA is now in violation of its founding charter which called for the peaceful exploration of space. Now matter how much NASA denies this reality, the public is becoming painfully aware of this fact. Support for NASA is declining, in fact support for the Mars missions is dropping. People would rather see their hard earned tax dollars used for health care, social security, child care and environmental clean-up here on our mother Earth. While the Mars Society cynically says that the "Earth is a dieing planet and that we must terraform Mars and move civilization there," most people would prefer to make life here on this planet livable.
When citizens learn that NASA now is preparing, and in fact expanding, the use of nuclear power in space they become even more firm in their opposition to the space program. Those who work at NASA, and truly believe in peaceful and environmentally sound exploration, should stand up and resist the ruination of their beloved space program.
We know that there are people inside NASA who have done dramatic research on non-nuclear alternatives for space exploration but they have been pushed aside by the growing control of the nuclear advocates, many of them who come with a military objective. If you have doubts about the potential of solar alternatives just check with the European Space Agency and their Rosetta mission that will use solar to travel into deep space.
We can assure you that our organization, now in our 11th year, is working vigorously to create a global constituency that is opposed to the nuclearization and weaponization of space. NASA's decision to continue down this dangerous path of promoting nuclear launches only makes our efforts to focus public attention on your agency easier.
Bruce K. Gagnon