NUKES IN SPACE

ACTIVISTS FRET ABOUT RADIOACTIVE POWER, BUT CASSINI CAN'T EXPLORE SATURN WITHOUT IT

It's mid-October 1997--about a month from now--and a Titan IV rocket has just lifted off the pad at Cape Canaveral. Perched on top is the Cassini spacecraft, one of the most ambitious probes NASA has ever launched. If the mission goes as planned, Cassini will reach Saturn in 2004 and spend the next four years exploring the giant ringed planet and most of its 18 icy moons.

But suddenly something goes wrong. Maybe the Titan's fuel system springs a leak, triggering a fireball that duplicates the Challenger explosion of 1996. Or maybe the rocket simply wanders off course, forcing ground controllers...

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