Kansas University student Stephanie Ring and supporters today embarked on a special mission to protest space shuttle deployment of the nuclear-powered Galileo probe.
Members of Academic Freedom Action Coalition and Environs, an environmental group, marched the 1.5 miles from Stauffer-Flint Hall to Nichols Hall on West Campus. The group's route took it down Jayhawk Boulevard, past the residence halls on Daisy Hill and then to West Campus.
The target of the anti-nuclear protest was KU's Space Technology Center. NASA helped finance the facility to encourage interdisciplinary space research.
DURING THEIR march, members of the group chanted: "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Plutonium in space has got to go" and "We have freedoms. We have rights. Let's not ruin it. With Galileo's flight."
Once at the center, the protesters "tied up" the center by wrapping it with colored yarn. No one was to be prohibited from entering Nichols.
"We picked (Nichols) as a symbol," said Ring, a coalition member whose academic focus is sociology and women's studies. "NASA paid major dollars to set this center up."
Bob Walters, resource facilities manager at the center, said today in an interview that he couldn't understand why protesters trekked to Nichols. He objected to their presence.
"I'm completely mystified why these people are coming over here. I don't want it. The population here is not sympathetic to this. It seems to me, I'll use the word, stupid," he said.
WALTERS SAID it was unnecessary for the students to tie string to any part of the building, because it has a "disruptive" effect on research activities.
Technicians replaced a flawed computer in the shuttle Atlantis, keeping it on track for a Tuesday launch to deploy the probe. It will take six years for the 3 -ton Galileo to reach Jupiter.
A federal judge this week rejected a request by three environmental groups to block the flight for fear Galileo could scatter plutonium over Florida if the shuttle exploded.
The groups filed notice with the judge Thursday that they were going to appeal his ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Launch was originally planned for Thursday.
"I don't expect the judge to uphold the lawsuit," Ring said. "But the mechanical failure is going to allow (environmental groups) to appeal the decision."
"The worth of doing that, at least in my eyes, is the government becomes aware we're not going to sit by complacently while nuclear reactors are launched into space," she said.
GALILEO WOULD be the first follow-up to the acclaimed Voyager 2 probe that wrapped up its tour of the outer planets in August with a swing past Neptune.
The probe also will be the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, study its stormy atmosphere and take closeup photos of four of Jupiter's 16 moons.
Scientists are looking for clues to the solar system's origin. Jupiter has a gravity field that may contain hydrogen and helium gases from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago.