SPOTLIGHT ON:


Countdown to Cancel the Cassini Space Probe


BY MAX OBUSZEWSKI


The Baltimore Peace Network continues to organize to stop the launch of the Cassini space probe with 73 pounds of plutonium on board. Cassini is scheduled for launch by a Lockheed Martin Titan IVB rocket on or after Oct. 13 at Cape Canaveral in Florida, which is one of several Pentagon bases for the U.S. Space Command. The Space Command's mission is the control and exploitation of space.

Dr. Michio Kaku, City University of New York professor of nuclear physics, spoke in Baltimore on Sept. 7 on "The Dangers of Plutonium in Space." Dr. Kaku dazzled the audience with his breadth of knowledge and insight. He pointed out, after examining the physics analysis behind NASA's Final Environmental Impact Statement, that the FEIS consistently underestimated the possible risks of an accident with the Cassini mission. In addition, Dr. Kaku said NASA overestimates the difficulty of using alternative energy sources. Finally, he detailed the Pentagon's plans for nuclear-powered battlefields in space.

Karl Grossman, author and investigative reporter, also appeared at Kaku's talk and participated in the question and answer period. His new book, Wrong Stuff, indicts NASA for its use of plutonium.

On Sept. 8, Grossman and Kaku appeared at a press conference at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., called by the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice [PH: 352-468-3295] to condemn the Cassini launch. Also speaking at the press conference were Bruce Gagnon from the Florida Coalition, Kitty Boniske from the Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom, Alan Kohn, former NASA emergency preparedness operations officer with thirty years of service, and Dr. Jan Kirsch, an oncologist from Berkeley, expert on medical effects of plutonium. That same day, the New York Times finally gave coverage to critics of the Cassini space probe.

After the press conference, demonstrators assembled in front of the White House to urge President Bill Clinton to Cancel Cassini. White House guards refused to accept some 21,000 signatures on petitions calling for the cancellation of Cassini, so the signatures were eventually taken to the Old Executive Office Building. During the protest, four of us were arrested by the Park Police for demonstrating without a permit and given a Nov. 19 trial date. Of eight protesters arrested at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 7, seven are to appear for trial on Dec. 3.

Despite wide media coverage of the press conference and demonstration, The Washington Post ignored both events. The Sun ran a biased Associated Press story which failed to report Alan Kohn's comments, and gave more space to NASA's rebuttal of statements made at the press conference. The week before the press conference, NASA used the media for an orchestrated disinformation campaign to discredit the Cancel Cassini movement. The space administration at Cape Canaveral, fearing possible "sabotage," went on military alert "to counteract possible terrorism." Actually, this was a calculated effort to smear those who condemn the use of plutonium in space.

Using plutonium, the most deadly substance known to humankind, is an act of terrorism, an indication of a willingness to risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. (Note a Titan rocket exploded on launch in 1993.)

The campaign to stop Cassini is troublesome enough for NASA to spread disinformation. Regardless, the protests, nonviolent in nature, will continue.

Nonviolent civil disobedience is planned for Oct. 4 at Cape Canaveral, and the Baltimore Peace Network plans another visit to NASA headquarters on the day of the launch. As this was written, Harold Cortright from the Environmental Crisis Center was to cross the border from Georgia to Florida on his Baltimore to Cape Canaveral walk

The following members of the U.S. House of Representatives have called for the cancellation of Cassini: Ron Dellums, Lynn Woolsey and Pete Stark from California, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and New York's-Jerrold Nadler. In California, Marin and Mendocino Counties passed resolutions calling for a halt to Cassini. In Massachusetts, the House of Representatives and the city council in Newton passed similar resolutions.

Kurt Schmoke went public with his concerns about the danger of Cassini [Sept. 16, The Sun] after writing a letter to Vice President Albert Gore, with copies to Senator Barbara Mikulski and Carol Browner, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, a five-member delegation from NASA and the Department of Energy appeared at City Hall on Sept. 23 to allay Schmoke's fears. It appears the mayor is no longer a critic, but the fact that five officials would make a trip to Baltimore suggests NASA is feeling the pressure.

As of Sept. 18, President Clinton had not yet signed off on the launch of Cassini. Cancel Cassini petitions are still available from the Peace Network, and concerned citizens are urged to make phone calls to Clinton [PH: 202-456-1111], and NASA, c/o of Cassini Public Information, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109 [PH: 818-354-5011] and to local federal officials.

John Gibbons [Fax: 202-456-6021] the science advisor, requested Clinton's approval of the launch, but the President suggested that more study should be given to this space mission. This suggests the anti-Cassini movement is gathering strength. So keep the pressure on.


BALTIMORE PEACE NETWORK, 4806 York Road, Baltimore, MD 21212 Phone: 410-3237200*Fax: 410-323-7292. E-mail: afscmar@igc.org


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This story was published on October 1, 1997.