Harold Courtright walked through Camden last weekend on his way from Baltimore to Cape Canaveral to protest the Cassini Launch, which is scheduled to transport more than 72 pounds of radioactive plutonium into space to power electrical systems in one of NASA's deep space probes. Courtright hopes to reach Cape Canaveral by Oct. 4 In time for a rally against the launch, along the way bringing awareness of what he says Is a great risk to the public.

Man passes through Camden on march to stop plutonium launch

C-1 staff writer

With a stare and stripes hat on his head and a. large red and white flag flung over his shoulders, Harold Courtright marched through Kershaw County Friday bringing a message he hopes will help stop a scheduled launch of plutonium into apace.

Courtright began a march in Baltimore at the beginning of August. He is a little more than halfway to his destination -- Cape Canaveral -- and hopes to be there by Oct. 4 for a rally to stop the Cassini Launch.

The launch, scheduled to take place in October, will hurl 72.3 pounds of plutonium into space to power electrical systems in one of NASA's deep apace probes.

Courtright agrees that the science behind the launch is logical, but he's worried that the rocket won't make it into apace and the results will be devastating to the earth and its living creatures.

Plutonium is a radioactive material that is one of the most chemically poisonous substances known to man. Courtright said he believes that if something does go wrong and the rocket re-enters the earth's atmosphere, it could destroy a fishing area, a school of whales or seed a city, a country or the whole earth, causing death and deformed children for more than a thousand generations.

But NASA spokesman George Diller said the launch is not dangerous. He said even if the plutonium did re-enter the earth's atmosphere, "Exposure to the average person would be no greater than what's already there," provided by background radiation. "Nobody's gonna die," he said.

Courtright doesn't agree. He believes the risk is great and said his purpose in making the walk is to make sure citizens in this country "know what's on that bird before it flies."

"I've talked to people all along the way," he said, adding that moat of them are angry "especially that they don't know about it."

Courtright, 69, said he chose to walk, instead of another form of protest, because U.S. 1 is the oldest highway in the country and, walking through towns along the way, he's able to get what he calls an important message out to the public. "An honest man can't blow up buildings and take hostages," Courtright said.

So Courtright, who resembles Uncle Sam with his long white beard and worn face, will continue his walk and hope that his campaign to stop the plutonium launch is successful.

To support or join his march, write the Environmental Crisis Center, 1936 E. 30th St., Baltimore, Md. 21218, or call (410) 235-7110.