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08 September 1997
National Space Society Adds To Support For Cassini Mission To Saturn

(Washington, DC) -- September 8, 1997 -- The National Space Society (NSS), an independent space advocacy organization, today released the following statement of support for the upcoming launch of the Cassini spacecraft to explore the Saturnian system.

Statement from Charlie Walker, NSS President, and Pat Dasch, NSS Acting Executive Director:

"Saying 'no' to Cassini would be saying 'no' to knowledge. Cassini, planned for years to reveal the secrets of Saturn, its rings and mysterious system of satellites, will provide invaluable data and another unforgettable rendezvous with images we've never seen before.
Saying 'no' to Cassini would jeopardize years of international preparation and investment. Misinformation and exaggerated claims of risk should not be allowed to slam the door on deep space discovery. Cassini's Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs), which occupy the center of current debate, have proven their safety and capability in 23 prior missions, including human missions. RTGs are the only realistic option for sending probes great distances from the Sun and will certainly play a part in future human missions. The National Space Society fully supports the launch of Cassini."

Excerpts from Statement by Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL):

"Cassini ... will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, which is the in the heart of my district ... there are some fringe organizations that are opposing the use of nuclear power for Cassini's on-board equipment. Cassini does not use a nuclear reactor, but rather a set of special generators that take the heat given off by the natural decay of small pellets of plutonium-238 and convert it to electricity. This is similar to the system used by previous deep-space probes. Additionally, all of the radioactive material on board will be used essentially as batteries, not for propulsion. The propulsion system is ordinary chemical rockets that have been used for decades.
If there were any significant public threats posed by this mission, you can be certain that I would be the first to protest it. I have family and friends that live and work near the launch site, and I would never allow their lives to be endangered. There are many arguments used by Cassini's opponents, all of which can be quickly and accurately refuted by NASA. In fact, opponents have planned events in Washington over the next few weeks to pressure elected officials to oppose Cassini, and I would encourage you to get the facts about the mission before drawing any premature conclusions."

Statement from Louis Friedman, Executive Director, The Planetary Society:

"We believe that not launching Cassini would be an enormous financial, intellectual and exploratory loss. Just as with the Galileo mission, a fantastic group of worlds awaits us at Saturn, with much to teach us and our children about the solar system, planets, the origins and theories of life, and the processes which affect our environment.
Cassini and Huygens promise to be just as exciting and valuable as Galileo. Saturn's fascinating and complex system of rings and satellites, not to mention the planet itself, awaits exploration with a likely similar treasure trove of new discoveries. The search for understanding our solar system, the planets, the chemical and physical conditions and processes that shape our environment, and the origin and evolution of life are the greatest adventures in our lifetimes. The launch of spacecraft cannot be made completely risk-free. But the public can take satisfaction in knowing we are being careful, prudent, and smart as we move forward and outward beyond Earth."

The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 25,000 members and 95 chapters actively promote the creation of a spacefaring civilization. For more information, visit http://www.nss.org/.


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