NASA Plans to Launch Two Nuclear Space Missions in 2003

January, 2003

From: Bruce Gagnon


NASA is now holding a public comment period until January 15 on their plans to launch two Mars Exploration Rovers from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  The nuclear launches are planned for May and June of 2003.  The Global Network will hold a major protest at the space center on Saturday, May 3 (10am - 1pm) in response.  In the meantime please send your comments opposing the launches to NASA at the address below.  Please help us spread word about these nuclear launches.

The Plan

  • Both rovers will carry plutonium-238, cobalt-57, and curium-244 (We are now trying to find out from NASA the total amount of radioactive materials on these rovers.  Please request this information in your letter to NASA.)  The rovers will do soil identification for NASA.  NASA plans in years to come to have humans mine the surface of Mars for magnesium, cobalt, uranium, and water. 
  • In the NASA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) they state that there is a 1 in 31 chance of  accident of the May launch and a 1 in 34 chance of accident in the June launch.  Both missions will use a Delta II rocket.
  • The NASA EIS states that if a launch accident does occur it is "likely" that some of the radioactive materials would be released into the environment and they show a map of Florida with a 60 kilometer radius as the "potentially affected area" of contamination. 
  • George W. Bush and NASA have announced a $1 billion research and development program called the "Nuclear Systems Initiative" that will expand plans to launch radioactive sources into space.  As nuclear launches increase so does the chance of accident and contamination dramatically increase.  NASA is now working on the nuclear powered rocket to Mars and plans nuclear powered mining colonies of Mars in years to come.  NASA's nuclear development program would also provide the Pentagon with nuclear reactors to power space-based lasers.
  • The Mars Exploration Rover missions are now $100 million over budget.  Let's use tax dollars for earth bound needs.  The planets are not going anywhere, we can explore later on once we develop alternative and safe technologies, and after we take care of urgent needs here at home.

The Alternatives to Nuclear Power in Space

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) will launch a probe called Rosetta in January to deep space that will be powered by new high-efficiency solar cells developed for just these type of missions.  NASA says it is impossible to use solar power in deep space, thus their need for expansion of space nuclear power. 

Send Message to NASA

Send a protest message to NASA during their public comment period which runs until January 15, 2003.  (You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to comment.)

David Lavery
Office of Space Science
Code SM
Washington DC 20546

Thanks for your support.

See open letter to NASA


Home Page