The FORCE Behind Cassini
by Karl Grossman and Jonathan Mark, posted 21st July 1999

The irrational decision to employ plutonium aboard the Cassini space vessel can be understood only by seeing it in the context of U.S. military objectives to ring the planet with nuclear-powered weapons.

For starters, the claim that there was no alternative to the nuclear option is patently absurd. By NASA's own figures, had the agency reduced the space probe's weight a mere 1% – 130 pounds – then it could have used photovoltaics instead of an extremely radioactive isotope. NASA's chiefs opted to launch Cassini on October 15, 1997, with 72.3 pounds (32,8 kg) of plutonium dioxide -- which could deliver enough plutonium radiation into Earth's atmosphere to match the entire amount released since the first atomic bomb explosion. All to provide the 740 watts needed to power the craft's electrical equipment. Such an enormously irresponsible decision defies comprehension – unless, of course, there were non-scientific factors involved.

NASA's association with the United States' military seems to hold the answer. Much of the reasoning behind the drive for nuclear power in space can be found in the U.S. Air Force report, "New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for The 2lst Century." According to this report, "In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict. These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills." However, the report notes, "power limitations impose restrictions" on such weapons systems, making them "relatively unfeasible. A natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space."

The agenda suggested in that Air Force report directly repudiates the spirit and the letter of the 1967 U.S. signed U.N. Outer Space Treaty. In essence, the U.S. military establishment is suggesting we annul a crucial international covenant signed by 95 U.N. Member States. Russia, China and many other nations must be uncomfortable with such an arrogant and menacing betrayal of peace diplomacy, and the push for the escalation of the arms race.

An article in the February 22, 1999 issue of Time magazine headlined "Star Wars: The Sequel – Hey, what ever happened to arms control? Well, here comes the new Bill Clinton, Star Warrior." The article began: "Disregard previous orders. It's back to the future after Clinton this month sent Congress a military budget proposing to pump $6.6 billion into development of a national missile-defense shield by 2005."

But "missile defense" is a euphemism, a smokescreen. As an examination of Clinton's actual ‘Son of Star Wars' program clearly reveals, the U.S. military is focused on domination, not protection. In the TV documentary, "Nukes In Space 2: Unacceptable Risks," Electronic Engineering Times editor Loring Wirbel cites a 1998 U.S. Space Command's Long Range Plan. This military report describes how the U.S. intends to wield power from space, taking "over everything between now and 2020 to achieve complete dominance for the United States alone – no other nations are invited to be involved."

Wirbel's perspective about this is eloquent and pointed: "America needs to express its leadership through good works and good examples. The more we try to achieve dominance through wielding power and having our own way all the time, the more we lose the essence of our democracy that makes us an exceptional nation and the more we move towards this dominance regime, the more I have to say I'm embarrassed to be an American."

Behind this campaign for U.S. space-based domination is an enormous amount of money and force – which of course includes massive influence over the media. These coercive factors are driving the use of nuclear power for even NASA's "civilian" space exploratory missions.

To pave the way for public acceptance of the nuclear option, disinformation plays a big role. For example, NASA has claimed the risk of catastrophe is minimal – "a one in a million chance" -- despite statistical data demonstrating that the level of risk of the Cassini Mission failing is 10% to 12%.

In addition, the agency has also told the public that even if an accident were to occur, it would pose virtually no danger to the population. However, according to NASA's own Final Environmental Impact Statement, an "inadvertent reentry" of Cassini into Earth's 75-mile-high atmosphere during the flyby would cause the electrical power system to disintegrate, dispersing the plutonium so widely that 5 billion of the world population could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure.

One way NASA has downplayed the potential harm from such an event is by basing its figures on the cancer-inducing dosage of general ionizing radiation. But a NASA-funded project in 1997 showed that a single decaying radioactive atom produces permanent mutation in a cell's genetic material that can cause cancer. (As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 1997.) When the Cassini Safety Evaluation Report (SER) for President Clinton stated that "several tens of thousands of latent cancer fatalities worldwide" could result from a Cassini flyby accident, it even underestimated the danger. Although the report referred to the 1997 findings, it did not mention the fact that each kilogram of Plutonium contains trillions of radioactive atoms. The true picture is that the number of fatal cancers might be many times greater than the number cited in the SER.

What everyone must know is that it is still possible to change Cassini's Trajectory!

NASA accelerated the Cassini space probe toward Earth from Venus on June 24, 1999. The closest approach to our atmosphere is planned for August 18, 1999 at 3:28 AM GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), at an altitude of about 729 miles (1173 km) and a speed of about 10 miles per second. NASA has scheduled three "trajectory correction maneuvers" on July 19, August 3, and August 11. Each of the maneuvers offers NASA the chance to do what reason and conscience demand: direct Cassini as far away from Earth as possible. The military agenda that underlies this ill-advised adventure, the development of space-based weapons, must not be allowed to radically endanger our lives on this planet. Space, as the Outer Space Treaty states, should be used for peaceful purposes, "the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries."

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
January 17, 1961
Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People

Back to Home Page