The Action Site to Stop Cassini Earth Flyby
P.O. Box 1999, Wendell Depot, MA 01380

NoFlyby Newsletter #12

25 March 1999

This newsletter contains correspondence with N. Jasentuliyana, Director of Outer Space Affairs at the United Nations. In the following letter, Earl Budin, MD, shows how the UN was misled by NASA about the risks of the planned Cassini space ship's fly-by of Earth this August. Mr. Jasentuliyana's letter, which is posted at the NASA Cassini website, refers to the report that the UN received from the U.S. and NASA on 4 June 1997.

However, the U.S. Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel submitted their Cassini report in July 1997. This Safety Evaluation Report contains major discrepancies with the safety claims of NASA.

The Cassini Redirect Coalition is calling upon the United Nations or any member nation or head of state to support the Emergency Resolution to the UN, which is posted at

We are approaching the 90-day-mark left for NASA to modify its plan to accelerate Cassini in a trajectory from Venus toward Earth. NOW is the time to do something - BEFORE the fly-by leg of this mission directly threatens the health of billions of people. Just the fact that scientists expect a violent solar storm, perhaps the worst in a century, to strike sometime between now and January 2001, is reason alone to redirect Cassini.

Earl Budin, M.D.
2415 Stanwood Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93103-1634

N. Jasentuliyana,
Director, Office for Outer Space Affairs, U.N.

10 March 1999

Dear Sir:

In your 16 October 1998 reply to Jonathan M. Haber's letter you note that information provided to you by the U.S.A. on 4 June 1997 "assured a sufficient degree of nuclear safety of the Cassini space craft." However one month later new information came to public knowledge in the form of the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) July 1997 submitted to NASA by an Independent Nuclear Safety Review Panel (INSRP) composed of representatives of 5 U.S. federal agencies (including NASA!). This report noted multiple serious errors in the various Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) published by NASA about Cassini, which indicate that the document submitted to the U.N. would "fail to" of Cassini. Some of the reasons for this are:

1. NASA predicted that during the Earth fly-by planned August 1999 an accidental re-entry of the space craft into Earth's atmosphere might cause as many as 3,480 fatal cancers (Final EIS, page 4-63); NASA later changed the figure to 120 cancers (Final Supplemental EIS) with no explanation for the new figure. In stark contrast the INSRP estimated the possibility of tens of thousands fatal cancers (SER p. ES4) due to the possible release of 9 kgs. of Plutonium in respirable form (SER p. 3-19).

2. At no time in any of the multiple EIS did NASA acknowledge the fact that a single Plutonium atom is capable of causing cancer (even though NASA funded the most recent experiments demonstrating this - published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S., April 1997) and that a partial release of Plutonium from its containers would involve trillions of Plutonium atoms and the number of fatal cancers could be many times greater than the tens of thousands predicted in the SER.

3. NASA claimed that the Plutonium containers in Cassini were "designed to withstand re-entry" into our atmosphere (FEIS p. 2-17 and Suppl.FEIS p. E-94). But the INSRP noted that the container were NOT designed to withstand the heat of an accidental re-entry at the planned fly-by speed of 10 miles per second (SER p. 3-24).

4. As a result of #3, the INSRP on 23 September 1997 requested the U.S. president to delay the launch of Cassini for 2 months since the Earth fly-by would then be at considerably less speed and the health risk would be less by a factor of 30-100 times! This was not done.

5. NASA based its estimate of the number of cancer deaths on the small average dose received by the world's population in REM of ordinary ionizing radiation (FEIS p. 4-83) - but the SER notes the "probability of a single atom of Plutonium causing cancer" (p. 3-12) since Plutonium emits alpha radiation. The INSRP then strangely concluded its report in direct contradiction to this, reverting back for some inexplicable reason to the effect of an average dose to an individual from ordinary radiation (SER p. 3-12).

6. The Plutonium on Cassini is placed next to liquid oxygen and hydrogen containers, a potential serous hazard, according to former NASA scientist H. Pohler.

7. When the current administrator of NASA first assumed his post, NASA's chief scientist stated that Mr. Goldin would have preferred to cancel the Cassini project because of "enormous risk factors" (Space News, March 1994, p. 3).

8. NASA claims that a serious accident with Cassini such an inadvertent re-entry into Earth's atmosphere is virtually impossible (less than one in a million chance). But a report by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (May 1997) lists some 18 different types of malfunctions which may occur such as electrical short circuits, meteors striking the craft, and erroneous ground commands. These are beyond the realm of human prediction. NASA recognizes the possibility that the craft might become "uncommandable" (FEIS p. x).

Just in the past 12 months there have been multiple space ship malfunctions, some of which resulted in total loss of the craft, including an error in control of the Cassini craft on 11 January 1999 with loss of its orientation which took 4 days to correct. At the Earth fly-by speed panned of 10 miles per second, it would take only a minute for the craft to re-enter our atmosphere and be incinerated.

9. On 12 August 1998 a Titan IV rocket exploded during launch. This was not the first malfunction of a Titan IV, the same rocket propelling Cassini.

10. NASA recently announced it was contracting outside organizations to help monitor its space operations, expanding the possibility of a loss of control (Aviation Week & Space Technology, 5 October 1998),

In conclusion, the Cassini Project does not meet the legal Principles adopted by the U.N. on 23 February 1993 relevant to the safe use of nuclear power sources in outer space:

1. The U.S. withheld information it had (the SER) on the safety assessment of the nuclear power system.

2. The U.S. failed to acknowledge the special carcinogenicity of Plutonium.

3. The Plutonium containment system does not prevent nor minimize exposure of the public to radiation.

4. The requested increase in distance of the fly-by from Earth does not significantly increase safety at the planned speed of 19 km./second.

The Cassini Mission cannot be considered to supply a "sufficient degree of nuclear safety" when it neither prevents nor minimizes the exposure of the public to radiation. An immediate review of the project by an independent scientific organization not affiliated with the U.S.A. is urgently needed, preferably with the possibility of redirecting the probe prior to eh 24 June 1999 planned approach of the space craft's return to Earth.

Earl Budin, M.D.
Former Associate Clinical Professor of Radiology, UCLA Medical Center
Los Angeles, CA


A similar letter that Dr. Budin was replying to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs was sent by N. Jasentuliyana to the Director of the War and Peace Foundation and NASA posted this letter at



TELEPHONE (43-1) 26060-4950; FAX (43-1) 26060-5830; (43-1) 232156
E-mail: OOSA@unov.un. URL:

2 November 1998
Ms. Selma Brackman
Executive Director
War & Peace Foundation
32 Union Square East
New York, NY 10003
United States of America

Dear Ms. Brackman

With reference to your letter dated 24 September addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I wish to inform you that the United Nation Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) is well aware of the problems associated with the safe use of nuclear power sources (NPS) in outer space. This item had been on its agenda since 1978.

Through deliberations among the Member States of the Committee (currently numbering 61 countries) have led to the preparation of legal Principles Relevant to the Use of NPS in Outer Space. These principles were finally agreed by consensus of the Committee at its session in 1992, and adopted by General Assembly Resolution 47/68 of 23 February 1993.

The principles recognize that the use of NPS may be essential to some space missions, though such use involves some risk of accidental exposure of the public to radiation or radioactive material. The principles provide that missions using NPS should be designed with inter alia malfunction correction systems and redundancy, physical separation, functional isolation and adequate independence of their components in order to prevent or minimize exposure of the public to radiation. The principles also provide that a State launching NPS should make a safety assessment of the system publically available. The United Sates of America provided this information to the United Nations before the launch of the Cassini mission (UN Document A/AC.105/677 of 4 June 1997).

The question of the safety of the Cassini spacecraft flyby near the earth covered, in detail, in this assessment. One of the safety provisions is that the spacecraft, at its present trajectory, would pass at a distance of over a thousand kilometres from the Earth. While the original flight plan called for the Cassini fly 700 kilometres above the Earth surface on 18 August 1999, the current proposal is for a distance of 1160 kilometres. The United States has thus provided the necessary information requested by the United Nations according to the Principles relevant to the use of NPS in outer space to provide assurances of the sufficient degree of nuclear safety of the Cassini spacecraft.

With best wishes
Yours sincerely,

N. Jasentuliyana
Deputy to the Director-General,
United Nations Office at Vienna, and
Director, Office for Outer Space Affairs


The Action Site to Stop Cassini Earth Flyby
P.O. Box 1999, Wendell Depot, MA 01380 USA

N. Jasentuliyana
Deputy to the Director-General,
United Nations Office at Vienna; and
Director, Office for Outer Space Affairs
P.O. Box 500 A 1400 Vienna, Austria

Sent by fax: 011-43-1-26060-5830 -- Two pages

23 March 1999

Re: Cassini and Scientists Predict Violent Solar Storm

Dear N. Jasentuliyana:

The following article represents a new red alert about the odds of a Cassini Earth fly-by accident. It's also another instance of NASA's failure to factor in serious possibilities for tragic mishaps.

A recent technical advance, described in the article below, gives humankind a four-day warning for major solar flare eruptions. Flare activity, which is at a high-point in its cycle, has already demonstrated the capacity to knock out power, electronics, and communications systems on earth and in space.

In terms of averting a Cassini catastrophe, four days warning is far too little time. NASA's planned Venus fly-by on June 24 will hurl Cassini toward Earth for 55 days, traveling at 42,000 mph (64,000 km or 10 miles per second) with Plutonium containers that are NOT capable to withstand the heat of an "inadvertent" re-entry into our atmosphere.

Cassini has always been too risky, at any time. But as we continue to learn, the upcoming fly-by is scheduled for an especially dangerous moment.

We urge you to seriously consider this information and that in the letter to you from Dr. Earl Budin of 10 March 1999. With Cassini and weapons in space, it is timely to find a new direction that will bring health to Earth for generations.


Jonathan Mark Haber
Cassini Redirect Coalition

cc: Dr. Earl Budin



3 March 1999
(ENN) By John Roach

As if Y2K weren't enough, there's another millennial menace to dread: solar storms.

Scientists expect a violent solar storm--perhaps the worst in a century--to strike sometime between now and January 2001. It may fry the insides of satellites, knock out power supplies, and generally wreak havoc on a technology-dependent society.

It will all start with a coronal mass ejection--a violent discharge of electrically charged gas from the sun's outer atmosphere. The explosion will hurl some ten billion tons of gas into space at speeds up to a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) an hour. Four days and 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) later, the storm will tear through Earth's magnetic field.


Solar storms have struck hard before. On March 13, 1989, a solar storm caused a power outage in Quebec, Canada, that left six million people without electricity. Last year a smaller storm was blamed for bringing down the Galaxy 4 satellite, halting news transmissions and pagers across North America for days. Fortunately, NASA space scientists announced on March 9 that they have found a way to forecast solar storms a few days in advance, giving satellite and power companies time to prepare for potential trouble.

The scientists discovered that an S-shaped structure appears on the sun in advance of a violent eruption. The S is called a sigmoid, a twisting of the sun's magnetic field. "Early warnings of approaching solar storms could prove useful to power companies, the communications industry, and organizations that operate spacecraft, including NASA," said a statement from George Withbroew, a NASA scientist. "This is a major step forward in understanding these tremendous storms."

With advanced warning, satellite companies can turn off high voltages on their satellites before the plasma cloud hits them, and power companies can briefly turn off parts of the grid until the surge of current passes.

A paper on the S-shaped sigmoids was published in the March 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.


Earth Day Events:

Check for a NoFlyby Earth Day event in Northampton, Massachusetts on April 20 at the Fire and Water Cafe. The event includes music by "Celia", "Smite the Dragon" and "Gaia Roots" and the video, "Nukes in Space 2: Unacceptable Risks."

In NYC Karl Grossman will be showing "Nukes 2" with a following discussion on April 21, Wed, 7:30 pm - Brecht Forum, 122 W. 27 St., 10th floor, NYC 212-242-4201 --


Start Planning to Unite on June 12, 1999 to stop the fly-by

The Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space have announced a demonstration to be held at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday, June 12, 1999, that will call for a cancellation of the planned August, 1999 Earth fly-by of the Cassini Plutonium spacecraft.

Please consider supporting this in Florida or in your home town.

Unity, common sense and caring for Earth can turn the planned Cassini Earth fly-by into a new direction for banning weapons and technologies of mass destruction.

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