Re: SPACE: Cassini Mission Consequences

Michael Lorrey (
Sun, 21 Sep 1997 13:56:23 -0400 wrote:
> ------------------------
> From: Damien Broderick <>
> Subject: Re: SPACE: Cassini Mission Consequences
> Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997 22:11:33 +0000
> To:
> At 12:19 PM 9/20/97 -0800, Amara wrote:
> >My personal opinion is that the antagonists are using this as a banner for
> >their personal causes. I honestly don't know why it has carried so far.
> >My scientist friends are perplexed also. You may be interested
> >in a "back-of-the-envelope" calculation that Jeff Cuzzi performed
> >to demonstrate that the Plutonium risk is pretty small.
> If I have understood this risk evaluation, we learn the following bottom line:
> There seems to be a one in a million chance of a plutonium dispersal
> accident into the biosphere, which would be the direct cause of 100 to 500
> deaths during the next half century.
> Despite the waffle about this being the same odds of a billion people dying
> in a dino-killer asteroid impact, we have no control over an asteroid and
> every control over Cassini.

So, essentially, we need to do a return on risk analysis. Since if we
were to stop the program right now, replace the RTGs with solar
generators (which would quadruple the mass of the probe, due to the high
quantity of solar cells needed to handle the low solar flux levels in
Saturn orbit), we can easily expect the cost of the project to be ten
times what it is now. Rather than a $250 million project, we can expect
a cost of at least $2.5 billion. This will either a) annoy the AARP so
much that they lobby congress to cancel the project, b) annoy space
scientists so much that they push to kill the ongoing Mission to Planet
Earth to get back at environmentalists. Figuring now that the risk of 1
in a million odds to kill between 100-500 people to now be worth $2
billion + means that we are valuing the average human life at between $4
to 20 trillion. Is this correct?

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------	Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
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