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"News Fit to Transmit in the Post Cassini Flyby Era"

Cassini Flyby-Activists - article

22 August 1999

1) Activists Stand their Ground, Even As Cassini Sails Safely Away
2) Notes on Bart Jordan's Commentary
3) NoFlyby Advisory Board and Ernest Sternglass

1) Activists Stand their Ground, Even As Cassini Sails Safely Away
By Daniel Sorid, Staff Writer - SPACE.COM
Aug 18 1999 16:02:21 ET

They saw it as a ball of poison.

Across the world, they yelled and held up banners to protest its flyby of Earth.

They said the craft, careening through space at 42,000 miles per hour, had a good chance of slapping into the Earth's atmosphere and spreading dangerous radiation throughout the planet.

In protests, on Web sites, in papers, and in speeches, they claimed that thousands, even millions, could die.

No one did.

On early Wednesday morning the Cassini probe, carrying 72 pounds of radioactive fuel, whizzed by Earth -- without incident -- on its way to Saturn.

But as long as there's been a Cassini, there have been vocal anti-Cassini activists. For two years, they've spoken out on the craft's plutonium dioxide power, made with the radioactive element used in nuclear weapons. (The plutonium used on Cassini, though, is not weapons-grade.)

Come launch time -- in October 1997 -- the protesters staked out the Cape Canaveral launch site to try to stop the probe.

The launch went off without a hitch.

And when the craft was on its way back to Earth after spiraling around Venus for a gravity boost, the opponents once again unfurled their banners.

Jonathan Mark was one of the protest leaders. His website, "Stop Cassini Earth Flyby," was a kind of Protest Central for opponents of the craft.

On it, there are impassioned pleas to stop the mission with headlines like "NASA Misleads the World," and "The Cassini Gamble."

There are links to scholarly papers on the risks of the mission to the planet and its inhabitants and to political dispatches decrying the military's role in space research.

You can sign up for legal action and send off thoughts to world leaders.

And you can view pictures of the worldwide protests: of grandmothers making their voices heard, and Bangladeshis taking a stand.

But now that Cassini passed by safely, was it all for naught?

"Protesting against Cassini wasn't a mistake," Mark said. "It's significant, and I'm glad there wasn't any accident."

Mark, who sends his anti-Cassini newsletter to over 1,000 subscribers, still believes that plutonium-powered spacecraft could one day play a role in destroying life on Earth.

"We're living at a time when human beings don't have to survive on this planet," he said. "We can go extinct like the dinosaurs."

On the other side of the world, the General Secretary of the Bangladesh Astronomical Society had a similar reaction.

"Our calculation was not wrong, because we did not say that it would definitely fall on the Earth during its closest approach with Earth," F.R. Sarker said. "We were more concerned about the radioactive materials Cassini has been carrying on board."

NASA, on the other hand, couldn't resist a little gloating.

"We told you so," chimed in Mary Beth Murrill, spokeswoman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, when asked what she would say to the anti-Cassini protesters.

The space agency had said all along that a disaster was extremely unlikely, with a probability of less than one-in-a-million.

Another NASA spokesman, Douglas Isbell, said the protesters' concerns were legitimate, but that mission scientists had taken extra precautions to prevent an accident.

NASA is planning eight more missions that will rely on the same kind of plutonium power generators used on Cassini, Isbell said.

Radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs, power Cassini. They are primarily used on missions to the outer solar system, where the sun's rays are too weak to be a usable source of power.

RTGs rely on the heat produced as plutonium, a radioactive element, decays. A converter changes that heat into electricity, which powers the craft.

The next launch of an RTG-powered craft is scheduled for the end of 2003, the Europa Orbiter, which will study a moon of Jupiter.

Those future launches are keeping protesters from packing up their signs.

"Concern about future plutonium launches is my main concern," Mark said.

He plans to leave his website up as a reminder of the Cassini protests, though daily updates will probably stop.

And in Bangladesh, the Cassini probe's success has left a residue of worry.

"It is true, we are lucky as there was no accident with Cassini," said Sarker, whose group led an anti-Cassini protest march on June 18. "But we are unlucky because this would encourage NASA to launch more space probes in the future with plutonium dioxide until an accident really takes place."

2) Notes on Bart Jordan's Commentary

In the commentary, Bart Jordan provided simple equations that gave evidence that ancient cultures, such as the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaean, knew all about Uranium, Neptunium and Plutonium, and why they stayed away from developing certain life endangering isotopes.

The Notes were written by Bart Jordan in response to many queries from the scientific community and from individuals in NASA. URL Source:

3) NoFlyby Advisory Board and Ernest Sternglass

Following is a brief report from Ernest Sternglass on his important work that shows physical evidences from baby teeth of the harm being committed by nuclear pollution.

His work and that of others on the NoFlyby Advisory Board, (with many of these members continuing their work on the Board for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space) is very special and truly inspirational.

Please keep engaged with these good people and continue to support efforts for peace in space and everywhere else. For the list of those on the NoFlyby advisory board, see: .

Note: Karl Grossman will be speaking at a Rally this Sunday in Brattleboro, VT on the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Dave Dellinger and music with the reggae music of the Black Rebels and other speakers.

As NoFlyby settles down, I wish to thank us all for sharing and not allowing Cassini to go unnoticed. Perhaps we can help the military evaluate the strategic advantages of going in another direction, peace in space and responsible technologies to benefit and not threaten life.

Many thanks for your support on the campaign to stop and expose the high risk Cassini Earth flyby.

Jonathan Mark noflyby{at]yahoo(dot}com
Action Site to Stop Cassini Earth Flyby

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From: Ernest Sternglass

I agree that we need to find ways for people around the globe to work together on the technology that will allow us to explore the universe and secure the peace on our globe in such a way that it will not endanger the health and survival of our species.

What my colleagues and I in the Radiation and Public Health Project are working on, namely the baby tooth study to be released to the public September 21 (See our web site: can help to achieve this. Our results show that radioactive fission products represented by strontium-90 in the teeth of newborns have been rising alarmingly in areas close to or downwind from nuclear reactors, and that in these same areas breast cancer and childhood cancers have been rising most strongly since the early 1980s despite the fact that all atmospheric bomb tests ended in 1980.

It implies that we have grossly underestimated the leakages from nuclear facilities and the amount of damage bomb fallout and nuclear plant releases have done to human health since the nuclear age began.

By involving people all over the globe in the collection of baby teeth, we can bring this message to millions, and prepare public opinion to respond to the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and an end to the production of plutonium in nuclear reactors for both weapons and the generation of electricity both on Earth and for the operation of satellites in space.

Ernest Sternglass

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since the launch of NASA’s Cassini space probe in 1997.

=====News Fit to Transmit in the Post Cassini Flyby Era====>

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