Beast of the Month - September 1997
Cassini Space Probe, NASA Mad Scientist Project
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"I'm sorry, Dave. This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."
HAL 9000, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey
There are many reasons behind bad government operations. One is certainly bungling bureaucratic incompetence, where rules and procedures are placed at a higher value than logic and fairness. Outright greed of vested interests often plays a part, with the invisible hand of profiteers playing as puppet master for policy against the public interest. Then there is the even more disturbing truth that certain "mistakes" (often deadly ones) are actually intentional, designed by those lurking inside the corridors of power to serve an agenda so diabolical that most refuse to even acknowledge the possibilities. The strange thing about the Cassini Space Probe is it's unclear just how much of each is behind the project.
For those new to this story, a little background: the Cassini Space Probe is scheduled for launch around October 16, its mission the investigation of the atmosphere of Titan, one of Saturn's moons. It was originally scheduled for October 6, but is being delayed because of a tear in the insulation. The rocket will carry 72 pounds of plutonium dioxide, Pu-238, the deadliest substance known by science. NASA claims that the chances of a mishap are minuscule. NASA also claimed there was a mere 1 in 100,000 chance of a space shuttle accident before the Challenger blew up. Like most cases with astronomical numbers cited by government officials to supposedly prove their point, the numbers had less to do with science and more to do with propaganda.
This is the largest space mission ever undertaken involving plutonium power packs. If some quantity of that plutonium dioxide is somehow dispersed into a populated environment, there is no question that such an accident could cause significant health effects resulting in thousands of casualties. All scientific experts are agreed on this point. NASA originally calculated that up to 2,300 people might come down with fatal cancer over a 50 year period from the dispersal of plutonium-238 over a populated area. Recently, it has lowered this figure to 120 people, a change that, as usual, is more about propaganda than science. In fact, given the history of lies by NASA, it is very likely that even the first figure is a gross understatement. The truth is, nobody knows exactly how dangerous this operation is. In any case, we have a potential holocaust on our hands if there is indeed an accident.
The launch itself has definite risks. Titan IV's have (so far) only a 95% success rate (19 launches, one spectacular failure). This 1 in 20 failure rate leads some to label this mission "Russian Roulette". There is more, however: the plan is to have Cassini orbit Venus a few times and then "sling- shot" around the Earth towards Saturn. It would come within about 400 or so miles of the earth while traveling at a speed of some 42,300 miles per hour during the month of August 1999. As Robert Cherwink puts it, "An accidental re-entry of Cassini into the Earth's atmosphere during the 'fly-by' threatens the Biosphere with the potentially catastrophic and virtually world-wide dispersal of vaporized Plutonium in the upper atmosphere. It is obvious that something could go wrong, and the investigation of the atmosphere of Titan is *not* a critical issue!"
The writings and rhetoric involved by those opposed to Cassini has been accused by some as being filled with hysteria. Perhaps it has, but considering what is at stake, any hysteria is certainly understandable. In any case, Karl Grossman's well researched article about Cassini, "Risking The World: Nuclear Proliferation in Space," was voted #1 Censored story of 1996 by Sonoma State University's PROJECT CENSORED. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott: "one pound of Plutonium, evenly distributed, is theoretically enough to give every person on the planet lung cancer." And recently, noted Dr. Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and co-founder of string field theory, has joined in the cause. With this kind of credentials backing the Stop Cassini movement, it is certainly worthy of questioning and examination.
Why is NASA continuing on this mission that has little support among the small public which isn't ignorant about it? It certainly is partially about bureaucratic inertia: once a decision is made, no matter how bad it is, it moves forward until enough opposition is built to stop the proceedings. On these grounds alone, opposition to Cassini is an obvious no-brainer choice: it is a project without any backing by the people, and thus is an anti-democratic fiat of a government agency with a history of deceit. If there is going to be a risk taken (however remote it allegedly is) to poison people with plutonium, let it be done after there is a public debate on the subject which creates some mandate for the project.
Having said this, Dr. Kaku has hit on a more significant explanation on the motives behind Cassini. He asks, "What do oil company executives, vampires and NASA bureaucrats all have in common?" His answer: "They fear solar energy. They fear the power of the sun."
Dr. Kaku continues:
"There is one paragraph in NASA's Environmental Impact Statement that states you can't equip the Cassini with solar panels because it is 130 pounds over weight. The pay load of the Titan booster is roughly 13,000 lbs. Cassini is one percent overweight for a solar mission and the NASA bureaucrats conclude that solar is therefore impossible."
"On the Cassini we're only talking about eight light bulbs worth of energy needs. The peaceful solution to this problem is for NASA to get with its own program: cheaper, smaller, faster...and go solar."
But such a peaceful solution would threaten the profits of the nuclear power industry, who have a history of choosing big bucks over human blood. The history of nuclear power is loaded with acts trading death for dollars, a history that Karen Silkwood became part of when she crossed Kerr-McGee. Certainly 130 pounds could be shed with little difficulty from Cassini, but that would mean upsetting a major cash cow to the military-industrial komplex.
Perhaps it is these monetary forces which explains the korporate media's coverage of the case, which has ranged from non-existent to the customary frivolous pap. As Russell Hoffman reports, "Virtually every report called the launch controversial -- as though this were common knowledge -- but few reports would even mention what the controversy is... CNN reporting was typical of the spineless follow-the-leader reports that appeared on many stations, yet it pretended to give the opposition its due. Their report showed some NASA/DOE RTG explosion tests, some old protest footage against an earlier plutonium launch, and told us NASA had tested the system very thoroughly and that, in short, everything is okay." The coverage should not be a surprise, considering it just follows the format developed after turning the Gulf War into a big Nintendo commercial for the Pentagon.
And then there is a possibility that nobody else dares to utter, for fear of being ridiculed: that Cassini, in some way, is part of some plot to intentionally kill people.
Sound ridiculous? In 1986, the Challenger lift-off was delayed, because, according to NASA, the weather conditions were not right. On the date of the Challenger explosion, the temperature was in fact colder than it was on the originally planned date, or any day in between. It was later revealed that those involved with the design of Challenger KNEW it would blow up if temperature was cold enough. This, and due to other facts which indicate sabotage, has led some to conclude that the Challenger was NOT an accident after all. The reasons and explanations for this are too complicated to mention here, but in any case, Challenger did seem to include a high number of females and minorities on its crew.
Of course, maybe that is all just paranoid conspiracy ramblings. Maybe uttering such things in regards to Cassini is the same. Then again, August 1999 is a time period with a rather frightening Nostradamus-type ring to it. If some mishap happens during the fly-by, all bets are off.
Whether it is incompetence, greed, or diabolical design that motivates the push for Cassini, it is a project that should be stopped. At best, it is another attempt by elites to circumvent the will of the people through a combination of lies and silence. At worst, it is part of some deranged plot to bring about Armageddon, a sly combination of the classic Stanley Kubrick films Dr. Strangelove and 2001. As far as beasts go, Cassini resembles HAL, the peaceful-sounding but psychopathic-slaying computer gone berserk. It is a metallic beast that will be launched in 39 days if not stopped. And, unless the American public makes enough noise in protest, there is little chance that anyone else will stop it.
In any case, we salute Cassini and those fine fellows at NASA, as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work!!!
On Karen Silkwood: Howard Kohn, Who Killed Karen Silkwood?
On the Challenger "accident" - various Mae Brussell radio shows
Government Email Addresses
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