Democracy Now! February 3, 2003

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Democracy Now! February 3, 2003
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White House & NASA ignored warnings of another catastrophic space shuttle accident : We talk to the former NASA engineer who called for a moratorium on shuttle fights six months before Columbia exploded; Texas sheriff warns of radioactive debris as the Bush Administration pushes for nuclear-powered spaceships: A conversation on nukes in space and the militarization of the heavens with Dr. Michio Kaku, Karl Grossman and Bruce Gagnon; Thousands rally against war in Madison Wisconsin. We hear a commentary from Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive magazine

9:00-9:01 Billboard 9:01-9:06 Headlines: 9:06-9:07 One-minute music break 9:07-20: NASA officials now believe that the Space Shuttle Columbia shuttle was shedding heat-protection tiles as it flew over the United States Saturday morning. The temperature of Shuttle soon spiked by 60 degrees. Shortly after 9 a.m. NASA lost all contact with the shuttle. Then residents of Texas heard a sonic boom and witnessed streaks of light crossing the sky. The Space Shuttle Columbia had disintegrated. All seven astronauts had been killed. It all occurred just minutes before the shuttle was supposed to land in Florida. Soon debris was falling throughout the region. Residents were urged to stay away. One sheriff warned that radioactive material was on board the shuttle. The crash occurred almost 17 years to the day after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Killed on Saturday in the Columbia accident were: Michael Anderson, a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force; David Brown, a captain in the US Navy and a flight surgeon; Kalpana Chawla, an aerospace engineer who was born in India; Laurel Clark, a commander in the US Navy and a naval flight surgeon; Rick Husband, a colonel in the US Air Force; William McCool, a commander in the US Navy; and Ilan Ramon, a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, who took part in Israel s 1981 bombing of an Iraqi nuclear plant. He was the first Israeli to travel in space. Memorials for the astronauts were held across the country and in East Texas where their remains were found. On Tuesday, President Bush plans to travel to Houston for a memorial service for the astronauts. Saturday s explosion did not come without warning. Over the summer a retired 36-year veteran of NASA called on President Bush to enact a temporarily moratorium on all space shuttle flights. The engineer, Don Nelson, who helped design the space shuttle, said the moratorium was needed to prevent another catastrophic space shuttle accident. The White House rejected Nelson s request. Nelson warned that NASA management and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel have failed to respond to the growing warning signs of another shuttle accident. In the past three years Space Shuttle Columbia had experienced a number of potentially disastrous problems: In 1999, Columbia's launch was delayed by a hydrogen leak. Two years later an inspection found Columbia to have 3,500 defect in its wiring. There have also been similar problems on the Space Shuttles Endeavor and Atlantis. On Saturday Nelson told The London Observer that he was reprimanded twice for raising concerns. Last April the former chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory panel issued a similar warning. Richard Bloomberg told Congress, In all of the years of my involvement, I have never been as concerned for space shuttle safety as now. The New York Times also reports today that NASA last year removed five members from a safety panel who had been critical of the space agency s safety procedures. And as recently as Friday, the day before the crash, the Congressional General Accounting Office described NASA s oversight of its private contractors as weak and debilitating. Much of the shuttle program was privatized in 1996 when NASA turned over flight operations to Boeing and Lockheed Martin who jointly run United Space Alliance. Guest: Don Nelson, former NASA engineer who urged President Bush to place a moratorium on space shuttle flights was needed to 'prevent another catastrophic space shuttle accident'. He served for 36 years for NASA until he retired in 1999. He was on the initial design team for the space shuttle. He participated in every shuttle upgrade until his retirement. Link: 9:20-9:21 One-minute music break 9:21-9:55: In Nacogdoches, Texas Sheriff Thomas Kerss has warned residents not to touch the debris saying, There was radioactive material on board. There was also volatile fuel on board. NASA so far has not publicly acknowledged the existence of radioactive material. But the crash comes at time when the space agency is quickly pushing forward its controversial plans to increase the use of nuclear power in space flights. Experts warn that had the Columbia been powered by nuclear rockets, much of East Texas and the region would have to be evacuated due to radioactive contamination. Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Times reported that NASA is seeking "significant resources and funding" to design a nuclear-powered propulsion system. The Times reported: The project, dubbed Project Prometheus, would greatly expand the nuclear propulsion plans that NASA quietly announced last year when it said it may spend $1 billion over the next five years to design a nuclear rocket. NASA and the Bush administration are keeping the lid on the details, including how much more the agency expects to request from Congress, but O'Keefe said the funding increase will be very significant. And is reporting that NASA plans to launch nuclear-powered Mars rovers in May and June. The wheeled Mars Exploration Rovers will both carry eight Radioisotope Heater Units (RHUs), with each RHU containing 2.7 grams of plutonium. Meanwhile in New Mexico, protesters have gathered at the University of New Mexico s annual Space Technology and Applications Forum which is sponsored by the school s Institute for Nuclear Space Power Studies. Organizer and University of New Mexico instructor Bob Anderson told UNM s Daily Lobo, "This is a big planning conference for militarization of space. They call it exploration and development of space, but all the people from it are people who turn it into military weapons. Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the world, is one of their biggest sponsors." Guest: Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York. He is author of "Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension and eight other books. Guest: Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space Guest: Karl Grossman, the author of "The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program's Nuclear Threat To Our Planet" and is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. Links:, The New York Times reports Shuttle Columbia catastrophe will not slow or change President Bush s plans for attacking Iraq. Sec. Of State Gen. Colin Powell will appear before the UN Security Council on Wednesday. And the New York Times reported the Pentagon s war plan calls for unleasing 3,000 bombs in the first 48 hours of an air campaign. The unprecedented scale of the attack is intended to break the Iraqi military s will to fight. Meanwhile, Britain s War Department yesterday admitted the electricity system that powers water and sanitation for the Iraqi people could be a military target. This despite warnings that its destruction would cause a humanitarian tragedy. In response to the Bush Administration s war plans, peace activists in Madison Wisconsin held the city s largest anti-war rally in 30 years on Saturday. Between 5,000 and 8,000 took to the streets. The night before the rally Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive magazine, offered his commentary The Emperor Has Spoken on the war. Video: Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive magazine Link: 9:58-9:59 Outro and Credits

Date Recorded on: 
February 3, 2003
Date Broadcast on: 
February 3, 2003
Item duration: 
59 min.
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WBAI; Amy Goodman, host., February 3, 2003
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