3. Nomination for the "Ten Best Censored Stories
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) set the chance of a shuttle crash before the Challenger disaster at one
in 100,000. It turned out that one in 25 launches could end in tragedy.
despite the January 28, 1986, Challenger disaster, NASA plants to launch a shuttle
on October 12, 1989, that will carry enough radioactive plutonium to kill every
person on earth. Nearly 50 pounds of plutonium is to be used in the space probe
which will explore the atmosphere of Jupiter in the proposed "Galileo"
mission. NASA insists that the risks of carrying the plutonium payload is minimal
and that the possible scientific gains are substantial.
But many scientists
who are experts in the field of radioactivity are apprehensive. They see three
possible disaster scenarios -- a launch-pad explosion in which the shuttle's liquid
fuel would be ignited and the plutonium released, would contaminate Cape Canaveral
and environs; a Challenger-like explosion in the upper atmosphere would dispense
the poisonous plutonium over a broader area; And any serious space mishap within
the Earth's 22,000-mile gravitational pull could spread the uranium derivative
even more widely over the earth. The Project Galileo space probe will be "slingshot"
around Venus and then twice around the earth to increase its momentum and allow
it to reach the remote Jupiter. In the second Earth-turn, the plutonium-bearing
probe will be flying only 277 miles overhead.
Dr. John Gofman, professor
emeritus of medical physics at UC Berkeley, and a member of the WWII "Manhattan
Project," says "If it gets dispersed over Florida, kiss Florida good-bye,"
and calls the plutonium space probe notion "a crazy idea -- unless shuttle
launches are 100 percent perfect."
While Project Galileo was nominated
as an overlooked issue in both 1986 and 1987, critics still feel that it hasn't
received the press attention it deserves.
In 1988, Dennis Bernstein proposed
an article to Newsday on censorship in television news built around Project Galileo
and its plutonium payload. Newsday liked the idea and put it into development.
Bernstein, who had previously written a dozen articles for Newsday, conducted
40 interviews with media critics and journalists, including 15 network news producers
and executives, and submitted his piece focusing on journalists' self-censorship.
to Bernstein, the article was set to run as a cover story on August 28, 1988,
but days before that date the story was killed. The editor who killed the story
said the newspeople interviewed were only talking about their feelings and there
were no hard facts, adding "Let's face it, publishing in mainstream media
is different than publishing in the alternative press."
newsletter of FAIR, subsequently ran Bernstein's article, revealing how informed
at least one network news executive was about the Galileo mission and its plutonium
"You know this kind of paranoia masquerading as journalism
really doesn't interest me," said Reuven Frank, the former president of NBC
News. "I don't believe (Galileo) exists. If there was a plan to do that it
would be reported."
SOURCES: THE LONG ISLAND MONTHLY, October 1988,
The Fire Next Time," by Karl Grossman, pp 71+; EXTRA!, Sept/Oct 1988, "Newsday
Spikes Article on C*****ship," by Dennis Bernstein, pp 1, 8, 9.