Mar 1 1993

Close Encounters of the Nuclear Kind

Reporters ignore space probe's plutonium payload

A space probe with 50 pounds of plutonium aboard–theoretically enough if dispersed to give everyone in the world lung cancer–made an extremely risky low-level “flyby” of the Earth in December 1992. But you wouldn’t have known any danger was involved by reading most of the mainstream U.S. media. Indeed, the New York Times‘ Dec. 8 account of the Galileo space probe flyby–which occurred later that day–didn’t mention the word “plutonium” once, or “nuclear.” Nor did the story, by John Noble Wilford, give any indication of concerns expressed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or by General Electric, the manufacturer of Galileo’s […]