#93 March 1996
Section 126.96.36.199.093.of the Artemis Data Book
WASHINGTON, January 22 - As data return from the Galileo probe of Jupiter's atmosphere, space supporters are cooking up a tasty dish of crow to serve the antinuclear activists who picketed the probe's launch six years ago.
Antinuclear groups had picketed the launch, and engaged in legal efforts to prevent it, because they claimed that the "nuclear battery" - a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) - that provides Galileo's power supply was unsafe. Pro-space groups, including the National Space Society and its Metro Orlando Space Society chapter, opposed these efforts, as they have in the case of more recent missions such as Ulysses and Cassini. NSS appeared as a friend of the court in litigation over Ulysses, and has successfully forced NASA to discuss the environmental benefits of the Cassini mission as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process for that mission. But the spotlight is on Galileo today.
"We were told that the launch of these probes would be dangerous and would produce little scientific value," notes NSS Executive Director Lori Garver. "The results here speak for themselves."
"The most absurd claim" of the Galileo opponents, notes Glenn Reynolds, member of the NSS Board of Directors, "was that the RTGs would 'make Jupiter radioactive,' -- when, as everyone knew all along, and as Galileo has reminded us, Jupiter already was radioactive."
Is it unfair to bring this up now? No, says Reynolds. "If Galileo had produced a disaster, its opponents would be saying 'we told you so.' But since their overblown fears turned out to be wrong -- just as we said at the time -- it's our turn."
More importantly, both Reynolds and Garver note, the Galileo probe has produced a torrent of information about what the Giant Planet is really like. Such knowledge enriches our understanding of the Solar System and, quite possibly, of many processes on Earth. "Most of our terrestrial climate models -- including those used to study the greenhouse effect and other environmental problems -- are descendants of models originally developed to study the climate of Mars," notes Garver. "Who knows what benefits will come from learning more about Jupiter?" "Like its namesake," Reynolds notes, "Galileo was attacked by the ignorant. And like its namesake, it has been vindicated."
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto