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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Space

Aired January 1, 2000 - 11:13 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: The history of space exploration goes back decades. The Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, but the Americans quickly caught up and overtook Moscow.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: And over the years we have learned a great deal about our planet just from the solar system around us. But there are still many, many more questions than there are answers.

As we enter the 21st century, the possibilities for space travel appear to be almost endless. Already, man has walked on the moon and lived aboard a space station.

CNN's John Zarrella, who covers these kinds of things, shows us what could be in store for the next generation.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You need to really get away from it all? Why not jump on a space bus and hop up to this Earth-orbiting hotel for vacation? A private company, Space Island Group, says it's not just a pie-in-the sky dream.

GENE MYERS, SPACE ISLAND CORP.: Every step that you take, every movement you make, pouring a glass of wine, dropping something on the table, is going to be exotic because you're going to have only one- third gravity. It's going to look like you're living in a slow-motion world.

ZARRELLA: It's an out-of-this-world vacation spot that Gene Myers says may be less than a decade away. The hotel, shaped like an orbiting wheel, would be constructed by linking together used space shuttle external fuel tanks.

UNIDENTIFIED FLIGHT CONTROLLER: ... three, two, one, zero, and lift-off.

ZARRELLA: Instead of falling uselessly back to Earth, as they do now, the tanks would be left in orbit. Outfitted with the proper decor, the cavernous tanks, strung together like a pearl necklace, would house hundreds of guests at $20,000 a head.

While Myers' group is turning down beds in space...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just space geeks, you know? JIM BENSON, ENTREPRENEUR: Well, somebody's got to be.

ZARRELLA: ... Jim Benson is hoping to turn a buck by mining heavenly bodies, like asteroids, for materials that can be used in cosmic construction. He'll also look for water.

JIM BENSON, PRESIDENT, SPACE DEV: Water in space is concentrated energy, more powerful than petroleum products. It's oxygen and hydrogen. That's rocket fuel.

ZARRELLA: Fueled by visions that the next gold rush will take place in space, entrepreneurs are expected to line up in the early part of the next century to grab a commercial slice of the cosmos.

JOHN LOGSON, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Our children, our grandchildren are going to have the opportunity to go at least beyond this planet within our solar system, and maybe our great grandchildren will be the first to leave and do the go where no one has gone before.

ZARRELLA: The problem is speed. In the 21st century, where humans will go depend on how fast they can get there because the distances are mind-bending. By the year 2020, the U.S. Space Agency hopes to have humans exploring the surface of Mars. It will take the expedition 11 months to get there and require an enormous launch vehicle on the scale of the old Saturn V moon rockets. And Mars, at 160 million miles away, would be like going to your next-door neighbor's house.

Magnetic levitation might make the whole trip cheaper and faster. At the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, engineers are testing MagLev technology to accelerate a vehicle to 400 miles per hour down a track in nine seconds.

SHERRY BUSCHMANN, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY, PROJECT MANAGER: Magnetic levitation launch assist allows us to give a reasonable launch vehicle a running start, basically, before the vehicle takes off.

ZARRELLA: Within the first quarter of the next century, a variety of space planes will carry payloads into low Earth orbit. Others will ferry cargo and crews to the International Space Station when it's completed. But all of this is near-Earth activity, like playing tag in your own backyard.

Unless humans can travel fast, really fast, our species will never get very far from Earth.

ROBERT WINGLEE, GEOPHYSICIST: We will be tapping into something that could push us from Washington, D.C., to Seattle in about 10 seconds.

ZARRELLA: University of Washington geophysicist Robert Winglee thinks he and his team might have found a natural accelerator in space, the sun -- not its light, but the wind that blows out in all directions from it at a staggering 500 miles per second.

Early in the next century, Winglee's team plans to inflate a giant magnetic bubble in space. The solar wind would push it like air pushes a hot-air balloon and its gondola. Only this gondola spaceraft would travel at tremendous speeds.

WINLEE: And when you deflect something, you pick up their momentum. So what the sun is going to provide us is with free, unlimited propellant that is moving at very high speeds.

ZARRELLA: Most physicists believe that within the first half of the next century chemical rockets will be ancient history, replaced by much faster solar sails, fusion rockets and ion propulsion, which generates thrust by shooting out electrically charged gases.

And the Mars rovers of today will look like kindergarten toys.

DAN GOLDIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We're going to see robots that have capacity to morph and learn and change. They can express emotion. And they will be the buddies of astronauts.

ZARRELLA: Goldin believes living and working in space, zipping around the solar system with robotic and human explorers will likely be commonplace by 2075, give or take a decade.

(on camera): But going beyond our own solar system may be out of reach for another thousand years. Using current technology, if humans were to leave today headed for the nearest star in our own Milky Way galaxy, it would take 40,000 years to get there.

GOLDIN: If we don't come within a good fraction of the speed of light, there's no way to get out to planets that might exist at perhaps 10 light years from Earth, 50 light years from Earth.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Because of the distances between stars, even traveling at light speed, 186,000 miles per second, thousands of years would pass just getting from one star system to another in our galaxy.

PAUL HOROWITZ, HARVARD ASTRONOMER: The galaxy, of course, is a flattened disk of stars about 100,000 light years in diameter, containing about 400 billion stars.

ZARRELLA: And light speed, most physicists say, is not even on the radar screen.

GENE SCHMIDT, NASA PHYSICIST: Really, within the bounds of known science -- and that's really whet we have to work with -- right now it doesn't look feasible. But then again, you can never claim that you know everything.

ZARRELLA: Traveling to the stars may not be part of the human equation, in the 21st century or ever. Many believe our ability to put people on Mars will determine whether humans explore frontiers beyond.

LOU FRIEDMAN, PLANETARY SOCIETY: I think what we're doing on Mars is this experiment, a 21st century experiment, is that by the end of it, we will have an opinion of life flows out over the planet and starts to go everywhere or life hangs around at home and it's just not worth the investment to go.

ZARRELLA: During the next 100 years, telescopes more powerful than Hubble will image planets circling distant stars. Chances are, we'll see blue planets just like ours, perhaps bearing life. The question is, are we destined to ever know for sure?

John Zarrella, CNN, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


KAGAN: Ahead on CNN's millennium coverage, preparing for our future in space. We'll talk with two shuttle commanders. That's up next.


CLANCY: At this historic changeover, more questions over the future of space. What is next for humans in space? An international space station maybe. Space travel definitely. More exploration of Mars and beyond, and here to talk about that is Col. Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle commander. She's joining us from Phoenix, where she is a guest. She'll be in a parade at the college football Fiesta Bowl this day. Also with us from Houston is astronaut Frank Culbertson, who is preparing for his third mission, to work on the construction of the international space station.

Col. Collins, I want to begin with you and just ask you the question about the future of space, what you see as really defining where we can go. Are there limits? Should we even speak of them?

COL. EILEEN COLLINS, U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, good morning.

I think the first -- the next executing thing is the international space station, as you mentioned. But why are we doing that? We'll it's to prepare for future exploration, going back to the moon permanently and going on to Mars. And I'm really excited to someday see people walk on Mars and live and work on Mars.

CLANCY: Well, I want to talk to you about the role of women in space exploration. But first, if I can ask you this crucial question right now, and that is -- I don't know whether I should say this or not -- but manned missions versus unmanned missions in space exploration, a lot of talk now that the unmanned missions, after the failure of the Mars Polar Lander, that we need a manned mission.

COLLINS: Well, I think it's really the synergy between the two. We need both, you know, missions with -- robotic missions, as we say, and missions with people, because we work together on those. I think the robotic missions should go first and maybe discover the sites that are best for the people to follow. So we really work together, and I think we need a mixture of both.

CLANCY: Astronaut Frank Culbertson, you have traveled in space as a shuttle commander. You're working on the space station. You'll be going back up again, probably staying about six months. How do you describe to us the experience of being an astronaut, that we should support this, that somehow we are getting something more than we even think from space travel?

FRANK CULBERTSON, COMMANDER, THIRD MISSION TO INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: Well, as Eileen said, the presence of people makes a huge difference. And when you have people in space who are able to experience what's going on and relate it to the ground and conduct the experiments that are required for us to expand our knowledge, then you've got human knowledge being increased and people able to express what it's like to be up there, which is a beautiful experience.

KAGAN: If I could just follow that up, how does it change you as a person to have that experience in space, and how does it change your theories and your beliefs about life that might be elsewhere besides on Earth?

CULBERTSON: Well, I think that when you see the Earth from space, you get a different perspective, and not just the physical perspective but the fact that the Earth is a very solid rock that's floating in space, but is very small. And the environment that covers it, that allows us to live, is very, very fragile.

So even though the planet is very solid and will probably be exist for billions of years, as it has in the past, the fact that we are able to live there is a very, in some ways, a chance occurrence maybe. Certainly, your beliefs and how that began are affected by being able to see that, and how it must have been guided in some way. And I think that the fragility of that is what comes across to you as you look at it from space and see the effects of pollution, the effects of changing the environment, changing the surface of the Earth.

KAGAN: Col. Collins, you talked about people living on the moon permanently, about going to Mars. Do you envision a time when we take it a step past just women in space and see families in space and maybe even when the first baby might be born in space?

COLLINS: Well, yes, I definitely see that. If you know, look back hundreds of years and you see how people move from, for example, from Europe to North America, we're going to see similar type things as people leave this planet and go on to the Moon and Mars.

And it's an important thing to bring women into the space program, and women have adapted very well and have contributed the same talents and abilities as men to the space program. And I think eventually, when we start sending people out into space, we're not going to be going short missions; we'll be going on long missions. So we'll need to send families. And the family is an important unit here on Earth, and it will be the same in space.

CLANCY: The challenges of living in space for a long time. Certainly one of them is going to be the expense of supporting that kind of an operation.

Astronaut Culbertson -- well, Col. Collins let me ask you this -- you know, a little bit about budgeting in NASA. What are we confronting right now? In order to find this future that we're talking about, what is needed from the government and from others? COLLINS: Well, the government usually takes the lead in doing things that are maybe a little more risky than something private industry would jump into, as far as the economics side of it. So the government should, in many ways, go first and do the exploring part and show that this is a feasible thing to do, and potentially, and economically good thing to do.

And then private industry can follow. And I think we'll see that may be sooner than you think. We'll citizens, the average citizen flying in space some day, just having the opportunity maybe to go up and do a suborbital flight, which is maybe 15 minutes or so; and then going up later for visits to a space station. And as we start getting people into space and tourism, industry will start seeing that yes, there is a profit to be made in space, and then more and more people will have the opportunity to go.

CLANCY: Astronaut Frank Culbertson, if I can ask you, the internationalization of space -- you worked on the Mir project with the Russians. Is this something that's political, or is there a real benefit to seeing nations that develop their space programs together?

CULBERTSON: Well, there's plenty of politics always involved in government programs, and certainly in the space program, throughout its history politics has been involved. But fortunately, there are tremendous real benefits involved in our working together with the Russians and our other partners on the international space station. It's a tremendous mixing of cultures, technology, capabilities, operational experience.

CLANCY: I know that you have to go, Col. Collins. I want to ask you a question before you do leave. And I just want to ask you this: Do you dream when you're up in space? Or even down on Earth, what are your dreams of space and your perhaps vision there of the future?

COLLINS: Well, I find as far as dreaming while your -- I'm not sure what you mean by dreams -- you know, dreaming while your sleeping or dreaming of the future. I'd say, let me answer both questions. Dreaming in space or sleeping space is very similar to that on Earth.

As far as dreaming of, you know, things in the future, and you know, how -- you know, maybe dreaming of better things, I think going up into space is really inspirational, and especially looking out the window; as Frank mentioned, looking back at the Earth and seeing how beautiful it is and how fragile it is, you just have dreams for yourself, and for the future of humanity and for your family that the world can be a better place and there's more that we can do and there's more places we can go and things that we can do better.

And I think being an astronaut, I think I have a different perspective on the Earth than I did before I became and astronaut, and I think I'm a lot more positive and more hopeful for the future than I was before.

CLANCY: Col. Eileen Collins, our thanks to you for being with us. Good luck at the Fiesta Bowl. Enjoy the parade.

Frank Culbertson, I'm going to ask you to stay there. We're going to be back, talking with you a little bit in just a few minutes.


KAGAN: Even astronauts have special responsibilities, like waving at a parade on New Year's Day.

Coming up on our special millennium coverage:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Develop the means to go to other planets and look for this life. We're not restricted by our own imagination.


KAGAN: Searching for underground -- searching underground for clues to life on Mars.


KAGAN: The search for life in space is another chapter in space exploration, and the search for life on Mars is taking scientists to some earthly places like Mexico. In a story that first aired on CNN & TIME correspondent David Lewis accompanied some modern-day explorers underground to learn more about other planets.


DAVID LEWIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a year, descendants of the Sokay (ph) Indians of southern Mexico celebrate an ancient ritual at a cave called Vialus (ph). Their legends say it is the entrance to the underworld. A few days later, these American visitors set off on a different kind of pilgrimage to Vialus, a scientific quest.

Penny Boston and Diana Northrup are exobiologists, specialists in the search for life in outer space, funded in part by NASA, the government's space agency. They've come to the Mexican jungle along with a geologist colleague.

PENNY BOSTON, EXOBIOLOGIST: If the pigmented population and the less-pigmented population are living in the same habitat, why are they synchronating?

LEWIS: It may seem strange, but they're here to look for clues to life on Mars, our nearest planetary neighbor. What they find could redefine biology. Until recently, scientists believed that all life, from plants to animals, ultimately depends on sunlight and photosynthesis. But underneath the jungle floor in Vialus, a chain of life breaks the old biological rules, surviving without sunlight, getting its energy instead from chemicals in the Earth's crust.

BOSTON: This cave has an exceedingly high sulfur content, and we are very interested in that because Mars is a very sulfur-rich planet.

LEWIS: But the sulfur that tantalizes these exobiologists can also kill them.

BOSTON: We need all the equipment we can get.

LEWIS: Hydrogen sulfide gas fills most parts of the cave with its poisonous, rotten-egg stink. With special respirators, they are safe, ready to look for life beyond the sky by studying life below the ground.

(on camera): In this part of the cave, we stand between two worlds: aboveground, the one we know; and this way, a little- understood world of alien life that thrives in total darkness and a poisonous atmosphere. What is it that lives here? How can it survive in such a hostile place?

(voice-over): Down here, sulfur-eating microbes are the first link in a flourishing food chain that includes midges and other insects, spiders...

BOSTON: Oh, cool!

LEWIS: ... tiny blind fish and even mammals, bats by the thousands. They're normally fragile creatures, but they've somehow adapted to this toxic atmosphere. How, nobody knows.

(on camera): It seems like there's a couple of mysteries left in this cave.


BOSTON: There's far more about this cave that we don't know.

NORTHRUP: Oh, they're nibbling! The little mouth is moving.

LEWIS: So they're doing everyday biology -- sampling, testing -- but under extraordinary conditions.

BOSTON: Right now, I have a broken bone from a November trip. And I got a giant, swollen hematoma in my leg, with a bone chip on a different trip. And I cracked a rib, and I got a big chunk of gypsum in my eye that had to be dug out.

Oh! I got burning stuff on my hands, on my arms.

LEWIS: On this trip, it was the sulfur that got to Penny Boston.

BOSTON: (INAUDIBLE) it's hurting up here. I'm itching and burning all over.

LEWIS: Apparently, sulfuric acid formed when the sweat on her body reacted with the hydrogen sulfide gas.

BOSTON: It's been exceedingly high, and these are lethal levels for humans.

LEWIS: They carry a monitor to check for dangerous gases. Hydrogen sulfide -- H2S -- is deadly above 10 parts per million. BOSTON: H2S coming up -- 29, 30, 40. I'm not sure I want to stand over this much longer.

LEWIS: It's been as high as 140.

NORTHRUP: One of the dangers is that when you quit smelling hydrogen sulfide is right before you die.

LEWIS: If they survive all the challenges, they can actually do a little science. One especially exotic lifeform in Vialus first caught their attention.

NORTHRUP: Oh, look at that!

LEWIS: A colony of bacteria that feeds off sulfur and forms a unique shape.

NORTHRUP: That is the best baby snottite I've ever seen.


NORTHRUP: ... I have seen, yeah.

BOSTON: What particularly attracted us to this cave are these -- these snottites (ph), these rather humorously named sort of gooey stalactite-looking objects.

NORTHRUP: Let's get a nice juicy one.

LEWIS: Snottites? How do they talk about this in polite conversations.

BOSTON: Well...

NORTHRUP: We're not polite.

BOSTON: ... we're not polite!

NORTHRUP: Why don't you bring the tube up under it, Penny.

LEWIS: In fact, the bacterial snottites and the cave's entire sci-fi ecosystem represent a series scientific puzzle.

NORTHRUP: You could do 20 dissertations in this cave.

BOSTON: We could be working in this cave for the rest of our careers.

LEWIS: In Diana Northrup's case, it's a career she literally stumbled into.

NORTHRUP: I went into my first cave when I was 18 years old, tripped in a stream, fell in over my head in the water, and I was hooked.

BOSTON: I was the kind of kid that was turned on by all kinds of scientific stuff.

LEWIS: Penny Boston has been intrigued by exobiology forever.

BOSTON: I remember being, like, 10 or 11 years old when I first read the word, and I thought, yes! That's what I want to do! This is absolutely it.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Space, the final frontier...

LEWIS: "Star Trek" was an early inspiration.

SHATNER: Its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds...

LEONARD NIMOY: We are dealing with a silicon creature of the deep rocks, capable of moving through solid rock as easily as we move through the air.

BOSTON: That was one of my favorite episodes.

NIMOY: It calls itself a horta.

SHATNER: A horta?

BOSTON: Never thought that I would actually sort of work on miniature hortas in a cave!

LEWIS: But here she is, and the work Penny Boston and Diana Northrup are doing is adding to a growing body of research on life in what NASA calls "extreme environments."

(on camera): Only in the last decade have scientists realized how much life there is beneath the Earth's surface. In fact, some researchers now estimate there is more biomass -- the combined weight of all living things -- underground than there is on top.

(voice-over): That's why exobiologists are hunting for obscure varieties of life in these hot springs in Yellowstone Park, at boiling vents in the bottom of the sea and beneath the polar ice cap, sites on Earth where they used to believe life could not endure, locations down here that teach scientists how to think about life out there.

BOSTON: We're trying to broaden our view of all of the things that life can do in any of its many facets so that when we develop the means to go to other planets and look for this life, we're not restricted by our own imaginations.

LEWIS (on camera): So life in this cave could be like...

BOSTON: Life somewhere else.

LEWIS (voice-over): Somewhere like Mars.

NASA ANNOUNCER: The lift-off of the Delta rocket with Mars Pathfinder...

LEWIS: Future Mars missions might find life, probably not little green men, but maybe microbial life below the surface. That's where Boston and Northrup's work comes in.

NORTHRUP: Some of these were collected from way deep in the cave.

LEWIS: They're trying to untangle the genetic code of what they found in the cave so they can help NASA figure out what to search for.

NORTHRUP: Well, this is a new shape.

LEWIS: The DNA results confirm they're dealing with something science has never seen before.

BOSTON: This chunk that we've just looked at is not very closely related to anybody.

LEWIS: But this research is expensive and, despite money from NASA and other small grants, funding is tight.

NORTHRUP: I pay for a lot of it out of my own pocket.

LEWIS: The bottom line is, is you're trying to get money any way you can get it.

BOSTON: Damn straight.


LEWIS: These two intrepid explorers have the enthusiasm of kids stomping in mud puddles.

BOSTON: Science is filled with people who never wanted to grow up, you know...


BOSTON: ... and want to do cool, weird, neat things...

NORTHRUP: Who find the world fascinating.

BOSTON: Yeah, endlessly. And we don't seem to get tired of it.


CLANCY: Well, just ahead as our Millennium 2000 coverage continues, we'll have an out-of-this-world chat with the founder of a space exploration firm and the author of a new book on the red planet.

Stay with us.


CLANCY: Well, joining us now to talk more about the future of space exploration is a very interesting man, Robert Zubrin. His books "Entering Space" and then "The Case for Mars" both samples of his expansive writing on space propulsion, as well as space exploration. Mr. Zubrin is joining us now from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for being with us. And for you, I should say happy new millennium. I think you think in those kinds of terms.


CLANCY: OK. Most people, first question, you know, is there life out there in our solar system or beyond? You, on the other hand, say the evidence is we see that life from outer space every time we look in the mirror. What's your case there? Explain.

ZUBRIN: Well, what we've discovered recently is -- is that the -- there are at least three places in our own solar system where life could have started: the Earth, Mars, Europa. We now know that most stars, or at least a substantial fraction of them, have planets.

So in other words, the universe is filled with billions of places where life could have started. And in other words, what we've discovered is the universe is a much vaster, more wonderful and more complex place than we've ever thought. And the chance of life being out there is extremely high.

CLANCY: You think life on Earth, though, came from outer space, that we ourselves are alien to this environment?

ZUBRIN: Oh. That's a poetic metaphor. People sometimes ask me how can I say -- talk about human colonizing space when, in fact, we're native to the Earth. But in a very real sense, humans are not native to the Earth, we're actually native to Kenya. That's the environment to which we're naturally adapted.

We have colonized the rest of the world simply due to our technology and our inventiveness. No one could survive a single winter in Colorado or most of Europe, for that matter, without technology and -- such as fire, clothing, et cetera. And it's our same inventiveness that has allowed us to complex the -- colonize the alien environment of the Earth that's going to allow us to colonize space.

CLANCY: You are trying to push the envelope, trying to spur the imagination, the will of people all around the world to get involved in making this a civilization that is well and truly space-faring. What's the first step? Or has it already been taken?

ZUBRIN: Well, the first step has been taken, which is to become a global civilization. And the second step has been taken, which is to begin to poke our nose above the atmosphere of the Earth and begin to enter space. But the decisive step for us today is to send humans to Mars. We're actually ready to do that.

I mean, if we had some real political leadership in this country, like John F. Kennedy in 1961, if the next president were to get up with that kind of vision in 2001, we could have humans on Mars in 2008. This could be the decade in which we do it, in which we break out of the cradle for real. KAGAN: But one of the problems, as you say, poking around out there in space -- lately, that hasn't gone so well, looking at the recent attempts to get unmanned vehicles to Mars. Are you discouraged by NASA's recent efforts?

ZUBRIN: Well, certainly, it was a setback having a couple of robotic probes fail, but you should realize that, you know, robotic probes fail all the time. They have a failure rate 30 times as great as manned spacecraft. The notion that we can't send humans to Mars because we've had a couple of robotic probes fail -- probably the thing landed, hit a rock, has no hazard-avoidance capability -- is in no way a deterrent to sending humans to Mars. Most of our robotic probes to the moon in the 1960s failed, and our human missions succeeded well.

CLANCY: Right now there are active attempts by private companies to develop space programs, taking people for rides in orbit, perhaps building a hotel in orbit. Are those beneficial to your vision of the future?

ZUBRIN: Well, certainly, they'll be beneficial once they start to actually occur. But I think for such ventures to occur, we're going to have to have the government push the envelope out a bit further. I mean, before commercial ventures undertake human missions to Mars, they'll -- I think the government will have to send them first, like it had to send Lewis and Clark to the Pacific before the fur companies followed.

And I think also we're going to have to have some work on developing cheap access to orbit before a lot of these commercial companies can be successful, even in Earth orbital things, such as the space hotels and so forth that we sometimes hear about.

CLANCY: Robert, just very briefly, looking at the new millennium, is space the place that man belongs?

ZUBRIN: Yes. This new millennium is going to be looked at in the future as the time when we broke into space. If we do what we can to -- then, you know, we can have humans to Mars in the next decade. We can have a new branch of human civilization on Mars by the end of the century. And by the end of the millennium, I believe that there will be human societies on planets orbiting hundreds of civilized stars in this region of the galaxy. And when they look back at this time, they will look back at us with wonder.

CLANCY: Robert Zubrin, we thank you very much for your view of what is ahead for all of us beyond the confines of gravity here on Earth.

ZUBRIN: Well, thanks for having me on your show.

KAGAN: And we will continue our discussion about what is ahead for humans in space. We'll bring back Captain Frank Culbertson, the shuttle commander, on how NASA's recent problems could help shape future space missions.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy challenged this entire nation to -- to go to the moon, which I think most people thought was impossible. He challenged us to do what most thought couldn't be done.

NEIL ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This moment in history truly was a gigantic leap for all of mankind. And really, somehow, I believe, determined the challenge that we face in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED ASTRONAUT: OK, Houston. As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown (INAUDIBLE) I sort of realize there's a fundamental truth to our nature. Man must explore.


CLANCY: NASA certainly no stranger to setbacks in its programs to do that exploring. Just weeks ago, scientists lost the Mars polar lander, and a shuttle mission to fix an orbiting telescope was delayed repeatedly.

Well, joining us once again fro more on NASA's challenges is shuttle commander Frank Culbertson.

Thanks for being with us.


CLANCY: We don't have a whole lot of time. I want to ask you this. We -- talking about colonization of Mars or the moon -- long way off. What is directly ahead is your international space station project. Is it the logical next step?

CULBERTSON: I believe it is the logical next step. I want to first say right on to Mr. Zubrin. I like his vision. A lot of us at NASA like what he says and what he's proposing, and we would like to go places like that. We are, in fact, in the middle of something very serious at this moment, and that's assembling the international space station. And I think that will give us the opportunity to take those next steps. But we're still just barely out of high school here.

CLANCY: Since you were a child or I was a child, we have looked up at the stars and asked that question, is there life out there? What is out there? Thus far, even the trip to the moon didn't yield a tremendous amount of science, in terms of what was on that body.

CULBERTSON: Well, that's true, but you know, there's a lot of significant to that question of whether there is further life out there or not. We put life in space when we put humans up there, but life on other planets, if it's there, is going to be very, very significant when we meet it. If it's not there, and we are the only life in the universe, that in itself is extremely significant, and it gives us a tremendous responsibility to do what we're doing and continue to expand our knowledge.

CLANCY: Is there a risk -- just very briefly -- that we will never know the answer to the question, just because it's too far away?

CULBERTSON: Well, there is that risk. The universe is extremely large, and we may never find it in the -- in humanity's lifespan. But I do want to say that I predict that in this coming year, we will put humanity in space for the rest of time. Given any unforeseen tragedies, I think that we will put people in space to stay, and we will continue to explore. And your segments in 2005 and 2010 will -- will rival what you've done today and I think exceed it, showing what we've done on the space station and what we've done beyond that.

CLANCY: Astronaut Frank Culbertson, see you up there.

CULBERTSON: Yes, sir. Looking forward to it. And happy New Year to all my friends and colleagues around the globe.

CLANCY: All right. Happy New Year.

KAGAN: We appreciate that. A happy New Year with some bold predictions.

Here's just a tiny little prediction. We're going to take a quick break and be back right after this.

ANNOUNCER: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man to travel into space in 1961. Who was the first woman to travel into space? The answer after this.


ANNOUNCER: Who was the first woman to travel into space? The answer: In June of 1963, Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times in 71 hours. However, it took another 20 years before the United States would send a woman into space. In 1983, Sally Ride flew aboard space shuttle Challenger on a six-day mission. Women continue to make significant contributions to space exploration. So far, 36 female astronauts have made the journey.

KAGAN: When CNN 2000 returns, we look at the recipe for life.

CLANCY: Well, that's all for now. I'm Jim Clancy.

KAGAN: And I'm Daryn Kagan. Have a happy new year, and we'll see you right back here tomorrow.


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