Subject: Animated Timeline of US Nuclear Activities now available; Cassini to perform risky "Orbital Insertion" maneuver today (June 30th, 2004)

June 30th. 2004

Dear Readers,

Later today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will fire its rockets in order to slow down for its gravitational capture by Saturn.  If the maneuver fails, all the risk that went into the launch will have been for nothing.

Below is an essay about Cassini.  A few weeks ago when Cassini took some "spectacular" photos of one of Saturn's moons, media reports usually mentioned that Cassini was "plutonium powered".  It's interesting that almost immediately the reporting changed, and the plutonium payload is no longer mentioned in most reports I've seen or heard.  This is an outrage!

In a related issue, recently this writer was asked to create an animated timeline of nuclear activities in the continental United States.  I've completed an early version of this timeline and invite you to come have a look:

The timeline was requested by Mark Page of for the project he's working on -- a movie.  Kevin Kamps of NIRS ( ) helped collect the data and introduced Mr. Page to me.  The project was completed on a volunteer basis.

The timeline contains well over 1200 data points spanning over 3,000 weeks -- from 1941 to 2004, week by week.  I future version will have "hot links" for every icon which appears on the map.

Thanks for your interest in these matters, and please feel free to pass this email on to others!


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA


Space Shuttle Columbia's breakup in 2003 -- and NASA's inability to get the remaining shuttles flying again -- is only the most obvious sign that something is seriously wrong at NASA.  But if you look carefully, you can see there are a lot more problems.

What good to the public is a supposedly scientific inquiry, if it is done under shrouds of secrecy, with extreme arrogance, crafty evasiveness, and lowly deceit?

In October, 1997, NASA launched a "deep space probe" called Cassini, which contained the largest amount of plutonium ever launched at one time -- over 400,000 Curies.  NASA has since launched several additional plutonium-laden "science" probes.  The recent Mars probes also contained plutonium, for example.

The stated reason for the plutonium on these missions -- for electrical power generation (through thermocouples) and/or for heat -- is fraudulent because non-nuclear solutions for both "needs" are available.  NASA's tactics for getting the public to accept these launches are evasive and deceitful.  And worst of all, NASA gets help from agencies such as the NSA, the CIA, and the military to help quell public opposition to its pro-nuclear policies.  Such assistance is undemocratic.

The result has been in the past, and will be in the future, the same.  Radioactive dispersals into our precious environment.

Plutonium is not called "the deadliest stuff on earth" for nothing.  Each plutonium thermocouple device holds about 24 pounds -- about 133,000 Curies -- of plutonium dioxide.  Each plutonium heater, weighing 2.7 grams, contains enough plutonium to supply the world's terrorists with hundreds of very deadly "dirty bombs."  2.7 grams is enough plutonium to kill millions of people without reusing any of the plutonium over again!

Cassini was launched, successfully, amidst a fairly significant amount of disgust around the globe.  There were protests, lightly covered by the media.  For a day or two, there was some hoopla.

The next August (1998), NASA lost a rocket similar to the type used to launch Cassini in a spectacular explosion, 43 seconds after lift-off.  That rocket might also have had plutonium on it (it was a secret spy mission, so we'll never know).  And it might have released some of that plutonium, too -- there's no way to know, now that its payload has been dispersed into the environment.

In 1999, Cassini returned for a "flyby" of Earth at extremely high velocity (about 43,000 mph).  Fortunately, the flyby went flawlessly, but it posed an enormous risk to humanity.  Had NASA aimed Cassini's many probes and cameras towards Earth during the flyby, it would have garnered enormous publicity -- publicity NASA didn't want at the time.  Instead, NASA minimized the publicity surrounding the flyby by aiming the equipment at the moon, lamely claiming that it gave them a unique angle to view some portion of its dusty surface.

A month later, NASA lost a probe doing a maneuver very similar to a flyby (an "orbital insertion," in this case) around Mars, due to a mathematical error that could just as easily have doomed Cassini instead -- a translation error between pounds and kilograms.  Cassini, being a joint American/European project, could certainly have suffered the same type of error, and blazed its way across our skies the way Columbia did a few years later, and irradiated all of us while killing millions of us.  We came that close to the ultimate, unspeakable disaster NASA claimed had a "one in one million" chance of occurring.

NASA is absolutely terrible at estimating the odds against accidents.  Nearly everything having to do with space is much more dangerous than NASA or its many rabid supporters cares to admit.  Most of the time, these miscalculations only concern astronauts and satellite insurance companies.  But when NASA launches vast quantities of plutonium, it matters to everyone.

NASA is always quick to point out that the plutonium it uses is mainly Pu 238, which is not Pu-239 or so-called "weapons grade plutonium."  Pu-238 cannot be fashioned into a nuclear bomb.  However, about 12% of NASA's plutonium IS Pu 239 (although separating the two isotopes is no easy task).  More significantly, NASA never mentions that, at least for the first few hundred years, a Pu 238 dispersal would be much more hazardous, per ounce (or per millionth of an ounce) than a dispersal of so-called "weapons-grade" plutonium.

Pu 238 is about 280 times more hazardous than Pu 239, but for about 1/280th as long.  Pu 238's half-life is about 87.75 years, versus 24,131 years for Pu 239.  That means that in the event of an accident, Pu 238 would be a hazard in the environment for about 2,000 years.  (Generally any radioactive material is considered to be hazardous for about 20 times its half life.)

Even an invisible speck of plutonium -- smaller than a pepper flake -- is considered a fatal dose.  72.3 pounds of plutonium dioxide -- the total amount on board Cassini -- is hundreds of billions of fatal doses' worth.

In an accident, Cassini's plutonium would have been diluted to where everyone would get a small dose, unless the accident happened to occur during a rainstorm over a crowded large city.  If that happened, Cassini could have wiped out New York City, for instance.

Why would NASA risk such a thing?

Why would NASA launch all this "nuclear waste" into space, when even the Yucca Mountain team -- who are in charge of solving America's nuclear waste problem (and doing a lousy job of it, but that's another essay) has determined that space launching of nuclear waste is not a viable option, because it is too risk?.  Why does NASA defy the logic that even other government agencies have come up with?

NASA claims they launch the plutonium to power the probes that look for "life" and other wonders, and they claim they have no other choice if they want to do those experiments so far from the sun -- so far from solar power.

Regarding Cassini specifically, other scientists have determined that NASA could have used other power options, including solar power, by simply loading up two probes with half as many instruments each.  The total cost would have been about the same, maybe even cheaper.

In all cases where NASA uses plutonium, it is not necessary.  So WHY does NASA do this?  Why would NASA risk irradiating an entire small country, or a city or state in the United States, during the launch phase or during the flyby phase, with so much ghastly plutonium? Why risk causing all those cancers, leukemias, birth defects, heart attacks, and other ailments?  Why risk all that bad publicity?

From the evidence, it appears that NASA uses plutonium in civilian space missions simply as a COVER STORY for military spy satellites which also use plutonium.  The engineering advantages are much greater for the military applications than for the (supposedly) civilian space program.

Thus, it has NOTHING to do with scientific necessity!  NASA proposes, and then gets funding for, these extreme missions specifically to make it virtually impossible to come up with a non-nuclear solution.  It is NOT done because the science community desperately needs to know something about the outer planets before hell freezes over.  It is to create an infrastructure for the production of plutonium-based power sources for spy satellites.

Plutonium is also used in terrestrial listening devices, and in fact, the thermocouples work BETTER underwater than they do in outer space.  The U.S. Navy has placed thousands of these plutonium-based listening devices in harbors all around the world, especially, of course, in Soviet waters.

It is all very secretive, but it causes citizens like me an awful lot of grief and misery.  Not just because we know there will be -- and have been -- accidents which will release -- and have released -- plutonium, but because there is an active infiltration of our movements by the military, to disrupt us and destroy our message.  Thus, the protesters are denied their/our civil rights.

The best way to make this country secure is to have it behave in an honorable fashion.  Launching plutonium is very, very disreputable and brings shame upon our nation.  For example, Cassini was insured by the notorious Price-Anderson Act, which was designed specifically for STATIONARY OBJECTS.  Price-Anderson was written to insure the uninsurable -- nuclear power plants.  As such, it is an abomination.  But as a way to insure NASA's space probes, words can't describe the injustice of the plan.  In the event of an accidental release of plutonium, NASA would pay out, through Price-Anderson, a maximum of only $100,000,000.00 for any accident. 

Paris could have been wiped out, for example.  One hundred million wouldn't even buy one painting in the Louvre Museum (the Mona Lisa is valued at considerably more, for instance), let alone pay for the destruction of the whole city!

But in the name of "National Security" the U. S. Government and its contractors will lie, cheat, falsify, insult, undermine democracy, and a whole host of other things.  They will destroy all scientific credibility.   No matter what data Cassini sends back, no one should trust NASA to tell the truth about it, since honesty has never been a part of their policies.  In fact, their nickname -- Never A Straight Answer -- was earned long, long ago.

After getting the idea from the Russians, NASA was advised NOT to use plutonium from the very beginning -- in the 1960's, for instance.  They did it anyway, citing odds of accidental releases of "one in ten million."  After that became "one in one" (when SNAP-9A disintegrated upon accidental reentry, in 1964), NASA did not stop using plutonium, they merely designed weak containments which, while protecting the plutonium from some accidents, mainly just ensure that it vaporizes HIGH IN THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE rather than near Earth.

What good is that?  Not really much good at all, except for the "responsible parties."  Since the plutonium disperses so high up, it drifts all over the place, and no one can be sure, later, if their cancer, leukemia, birth defect or heart attack was due to NASA's plutonium, or someone else's pollution, or what.  Proving culpability in a court of law becomes utterly impossible.

NASA likes that very much.

All of these points are expanded upon in great detail at my web site, by myself and by many scientists who have written articles, letters, and statements about these issues.  I've given some links, below, which are good starting places.

Can NASA's culture of lies, arrogance, evasiveness, and deceit be changed?  Not easily.  Since 9-11 NASA has become more secretive, more financed by the military, more arrogant (despite the loss of Columbia, which should have sobered them up a bit), and more deceitful -- more willing to hide what they are really doing under bogus claims of scientific research.  I wouldn't trust any of their data these days.

Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Please visit these web sites:

STOP CASSINI web site:

or try:

NEW: "Poison Fire USA" (Animated timeline of Continental United States' major nuclear activities):

Internet Glossary of Nuclear Terminology / "The Demon Hot Atom":


List of every nuclear power plant in America, with history, activist orgs,
specs, etc.:

List of ~300 books and videos about nuclear issues in my collection
(donations welcome!):

Learn about The Effects of Nuclear War here: