The next plutonium enabled space mission, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), is scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida between November 25 and December 18 of this year. The MSL rover, known as "Curiosity," will be fueled with 4.8 kilograms (10.56 pounds) of plutonium dioxide. It will be, NASA says, "the largest, most capable rover ever sent to another planet."
Fifty years ago this week, on June 29, 1961, an electrical generator driven by nuclear energy was launched into space for the first time.
NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining their dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry. Both entities view space as a new market for the deadly plutonium fuel.
Back in 1997 we organized an international campaign against NASA and the Department of Energy's launch of 72 pounds of plutonium on the Cassini mission. A man by the name of Alan Kohn volunteered to help us with that campaign. Alan had been the Emergency Preparedness Officer at NASA during the Galileo (1989) and Ulysses (1990) plutonium launches at the space center in Florida.
By the time Cassini was to be launched Alan had retired from NASA and felt free to speak out. He told the New York Times, just prior to the launch, that NASA had no plan to contain and clean-up after an accident on or near the launch pad that released plutonium into the environment. He said the operating plan he had worked with during the two previous nuclear launches was a joke and was only intended to serve as a reassurance to the public. Alan told us that a long-time family friend, working in the White House, had informed him that more people contacted Washington opposing Cassini than any other issue in U.S. history.
While NASA maintains that they are "searching for the origins of life" on Mars, in reality they are mapping the red planet and doing soil sampling which is all intended to serve the ultimate goal of establishing a nuclear powered mining colony there in the future. The Haliburton Corporation, known for their connections to the Bush-Cheney administration and fraud in Iraq, has been working on a drilling mechanism for Mars exploration for some time.
The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the life of all the people on the planet. As we saw in Louisiana, following the Hurricane Katrina debacle, the federal government is not prepared to do disaster relief and clean-up. A plutonium release over Florida could devastate a 60-mile radius - from the space center to Disney World.
It would only take one pound of plutonium-238 released as dust in the atmosphere to give everyone on the Earth a lethal dose of the toxic fuel. Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don't need to be launching nukes into space. It's not a gamble we can afford to take.
You can send NASA a message opposing the plutonium Mars rover mission using this link