We generally know what we mean by political media. The claim made here
is that all media are political, not only when they carry explicit messages,
nor just because content is in some way always ideological, but by the very
nature of being media. How could an image of a storm in the atmosphere
of Saturn (nasa 2011) be political? Certainly there is a debate on the uses of
space imagery for national prestige, and about whether we could spend the
money better elsewhere, but as an image surely it is neutral. One reason it
is not is that we have this image thanks to digital cameras and transmission
devices powered by three radioisotopic thermoelectric generators aboard the
Cassini- Huygens spacecraft that took the picture. Their fuel is 72.3 pounds
of plutonium 238 (“Cassini Spacecraft Nears Liftoff” 1997), an isotope pro-
duced in the decay of uranium in nuclear power plants like FirstEnergy’s
Davis- Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio, discussed in chapter 1. Plutonium
238 constitutes about 1 percent of the spent fuel from a nuclear plant, so the
seventy- two pounds aboard Cassini would have required about three and
a half metric tons of uranium. U.S. nuclear power plants import about ten
thousand metric tons of uranium a year from Australia, one of whose largest
mines is the Ranger, also described in chapter 1. The spacecraft’s journey is
slated to end with entry into Saturn’s atmosphere during the 2017 northern
summer solstice, destroying the spacecraft and its three generators. The min-
eral first ripped from the terra nullius created by denying that indigenous
CODA ON SATURN
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