News Release

Mars Mission Had 1-in-960 Odds of a Plutonium Release

KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman@hamptons.com
Grossman just wrote the piece “Applause for Perseverance Ignores Plutonium Bullet We Dodged” for the media watch group FAIR.

He writes: “With all the media hoopla last week about the Perseverance rover, frequently unreported was that its energy source is plutonium — considered the most lethal of all radioactive substances — and nowhere in media was the NASA projection that there were 1-in-960 odds of an accidental release of the plutonium on the mission.

“’A “1-in-960 chance” of a deadly plutonium release is a real concern,’ says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
“Further, NASA’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the $3.7 billion mission acknowledges that solar energy could have been an ‘alternative’ power source for Perseverance. Photovoltaic panels have been the power source for a succession of Mars rovers.

“One in 100 rockets undergo major malfunctions on launch, mostly by blowing up.”

See NASA document: “Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars 2020 Mission” [PDF] which gives the 1 in 960 probability.

Earlier this month, Grossman wrote the piece “Nuclear Rockets to Mars?” for Counterpunch.

Grossman is professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, “The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space.” [PDF]