Staff editorial at The Daily O’Collegian
STILLWATER, Okla. (U-WIRE) – On Oct. 13 NASA will be launching the Cassini spacecraft for Saturn. The craft will be carrying 72.3 pounds of plutonium. NASA says the chances of an accident are very low, but many critics disagree. The amount of plutonium on the craft, if converted to powder form, would be enough to infect every man, woman and child on the planet if certain conditions allowed.
If the mission is as safe as NASA claims, the organization shouldn’t have kept the upcoming mission under such tight reigns. Very little has been mentioned about the launch by the group until just recently, and the news has been about the loud protest coming from anti-nukes groups, specifically in Florida. One wonders whether learning about Saturn is important enough to risk a large-scale nuclear disaster. Why hasn’t NASA made it clear what they hope to learn from such a lofty mission? Why is NASA possibly endangering the eastern seaboard to send a craft to Saturn. It is time for Americans to begin paying attention to where their money is going, especially with the space program. While NASA regularly sends out satellites that are fueled by plutonium, the amount on the Cassini is twice as much as has ever been sent. NASA should disclose all applicable information about the mission, especially to the citizens of Cape Canaveral, the site of the launch.
It’s not reassuring to anyone when the mayor of the city stated on “60 Minutes” that it wouldn’t be a problem if his family “were somewhere else when the launch takes place.” Furthermore, NASA has said that the chances of a nuclear disaster are 1-1,500, but many critics using the “reliability of the booster rockets on the craft” put the odds at one to 20. These are risky odds when one is talking about the possibility of radiating a rather large area so quickly. It’s time for NASA to reassure those who pay their bills what they’re really in for