February 02, 2003
Contact: Bruce Gagnon (352) 337-9274 firstname.lastname@example.org
Karl Grossman (631) 725-2858
Loring Wirbel (719) 481-3698 email@example.com
In mourning the tragedy of the Columbia shuttle, the Global Network
Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space stresses that it came
as NASA has been moving to greatly expand its program to use nuclear
power in space and underscores why deadly atomic materials must
not be used in space operations.
In what it calls Project Prometheus, NASA seeks to broaden its $1
billion Nuclear Systems Initiative begun last year and include development
of a nuclear-propelled rocket.
Moreover, NASA is planning for additional nuclear-powered space
probe launches and to put atomic power to other space uses, noted
Global Network Coordinator Bruce Gagnon.
"While Columbia did not appear to have a nuclear payload on-board,
consider the consequences if a rocket powered by a nuclear reactor
came down in pieces over Texas or elsewhere on earth," said
Professor Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University
of New York and author of "The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program's
Nuclear Threat To Our Planet," narrator of "Nukes In Space"
television documentaries and a Global Network board member.
In coming months-in May and June -- NASA intends to launch from
Florida two rockets both carrying rovers to land on Mars, rovers
that are equipped with plutonium-powered heaters. The Global Network
has been conducting demonstrations to protest these launches.
Gagnon points out that NASA's own Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) says that "the overall chance of an accident occurring"
for each launch "is about 1 in 30" and "the overall
chance of any accident that releases radioactive materials to the
environment is about one in 230. "People offsite in the downwind
direction...could inhale small quantities of radio nuclides"
the NASA EIS says.
"These are high odds for disaster which could impact-as NASA
admits-on people as far as 60 miles from the Kennedy Space Center
in Florida," said Gagnon.
"These and other NASA space shots involving materials must
be cancelled in the wake of the Columbia disaster and safe space
energy systems be used instead," stressed Gagnon.
Said Grossman: "Space exploration is dangerous but to include
nuclear poisons in the equation makes any accident far, far more
deadly-and it is unnecessary. In recent years there have been breakthroughs
in energizing space systems safely especially through the use of
solar technologies. But NASA under Director Sean O'Keefe is partnering
with nuclear interests to heavily nuclearize U.S. space operations.
The Columbia disaster must show us the awful folly of this atomic
In recent years Congress has cut funding for the space program (in
particular funding for shuttle maintenance) and NASA has turned
to the Pentagon for financing of many of its missions. NASA's O'Keefe
said upon taking the helm of the space agency that all future missions
will be dual use - with the military now in control of the space
Loring Wirbel, a technical editor and Global Network board member
based in Colorado, stressed that "the shuttle accident occurring
on re-entry, which is always been touted as much safer than launch,
should serve as proof that NASA's planned nuclear propulsion program
is far too dangerous to be considered."
Also, "the hazards involved in aggressive space use also suggest
that broader military use of space for first strike warfare or weapons
in space is a dangerous game," said Wirbel.
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