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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Exploration

Aired January 1, 2000 - 3:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: We've sailed its oceans, dug into its crust, soared over its vistas, but we've only begun to unlock its mysteries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVIA EARLE, OCEANOGRAPHER: The really frustrating thing is to be at this turning point in history and have so many people not realize how much there is left to discover right here on Earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Our Earth: What we still need to learn, and how we are going to do it.

BOBBIE BATTISTA, CNN ANCHOR: And now to our focus on exploration. From the Explorers' Club in New York: What's left to explore?

A discussion with club president Fred McLaren, archaeologist Angela Schuster, author Richard Ellis, extreme medicine pioneer Dr. Ken Kamler, and oceanographer Sylvia Earle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EARLE: There is an illusion that this blue planet, this water- blessed planet, has been explored, and that we must go off into the sky for new frontiers.

The really frustrating thing is to be at this turning point in history and have so many people not realize how much there is left to discover right here on Earth.

CAPT. FRED MCLAREN, PRESIDENT, EXPLORERS CLUB: We were not -- a submarine never been south of the Antarctic circle to even sample or look at anything.

EARLE: So let's go.

MCLAREN: That's right.

EARLE: I think the greatest era of exploration is just beginning.

MCLAREN: Just to comment, I really think so. EARLE: And it is land as well as certainly the sea.

DR. KEN KAMLER, EVEREST CLIMBER: That pressure really is not getting to highest, or the lowest, or to do something the fastest -- it is really what you do once you get there. And it is true that maybe fewer virgin landmarks available, so to speak, to conquer, but...

EARLE: Except in the sea.

KAMLER: Except in the sea -- well, there's a lot -- that's quite a salute.

But the point is to look around when you are there, and we have never before had the technology that we have now to be able to look around.

ANGELA SCHUSTER, ARCHAEOLOGIST: The identification of new things is kind of, I think, interesting, because I think the more we know, the more we realize we don't know. The world loves maps with great arrows showing migrations of people and evolution of species, and it is a nice chart that shows it -- oh, well, you have this specie and then that, and it gave rise to this and that. And then a new fossil comes to light, and the chart has to be basically, you know, roll it up and smoke it up or something. It is just -- it became useless.

I am wondering if we will ever get to a point where we can do research without having to have it planned.

MCLAREN: Looking at the thermal vents off the Azores. And we went down there with the fixed idea that we knew where the thermal vents were and what we were going to encounter. Well, every dive that was made, we must have discovered another 25 new thermal vents that weren't expected. And, you know, we were almost backing in the water that's approaching 700 degrees Fahrenheit. I mean, you can see this shimmer.

SCHUSTER: And all of a sudden we are finding things that don't fit that grid anymore. We have -- one of our members, Louise Hose (ph) -- I don't know if you know her -- has been doing a lot of cave diving, and they are finding it is life, but not the kind of life we think about it. Sort of glistening slimes that I gather feed on sulfuric acid.

MCLAREN: The medical industry is all excited because they are discovering new ones that can -- the enzymes can withstand heat, and hence they can be used for DNA replication.

And people have asked me, particularly in this last year, what are frontiers of exploration? It is not just the deep sea, it is not just space. It is the field science associated with preserving our environment. This is exploration, too, the finest kind, and very important for the years to come.

RICHARD ELLIS, AUTHOR: It is a Brownian approach to exploration: By going there, you change it. You change Everest. Hillary changed it Everest permanently and irrevocably by standing on top of it. Don Walst (ph) changed the Marianas trench by landing on the bottom of it. Everybody who has ever explored anything has had a permanent and lasting effect on that place. So we can't easily pull back and say, we are just live in our little highrise here and not touch anything for fear of contaminating it.

SCHUSTER: I think what we are talking about is responsible exploration. Exploration is a destructive process in some small way. How do you limit the impact? And I think, you know, archaeological is a prime case because archaeology is by nature destructive. You have to build in preservation and publication into the excavation project.

MCLAREN: I think one of holy grails is to discover -- an area that you're particularly interested in -- finally find the giant squid, one of the many species of it, in its natural habitat. This has not been done to date.

ELLIS: Well, no one has ever seen a living giant squid. We've seen a lot of dead ones, and ones on the way to being dead. They wash ashore every once in a while in unpredictable places, so you can't stand on the beach and wait for one to show up.

But there is a place, and it is off New Zealand, where there is a very distinct possibility that scientists will be able to film one, because they are working out the mechanics of this now. It involves a robotic camera either sent down on a cord or affixed to a fishing net.

And I think this is the way it is going to happen. I think somebody is going to get this image, either accidentally or intentionally, and we will finally get an idea of what this largest of all invertebrates actually looks like. We will know what color it is, we'll know what it does with those great big eyes. We will know which way it swims.

EARLE: And there is another great symbol. There is this ocean Everest -- the deepest part of the sea has only been accessed by human beings once on a round trip. It may have been accessed many times one way, but one-way trips don't count, do they, Fred?

MCLAREN: No. Not on a submarine, no.

KAMLER: Exploration is not just getting there, as what we were saying before.

EARLE: Right.

KAMLER: It is great that the deepest depth of the oceans was reached...

EARLE: Accessed once.

KAMLER: ... but then what?

EARLE: Yes.

KAMLER: You know, no one has gone back to look around, to study it...

EARLE: Right.

KAMLER: ... which is very different then what's happening on Everest. After Hillary climbed it, he even said, well, once it has been climbed, probably everyone is going to lose interest. But it was exactly the opposite.

MCLAREN: Can we make one leap into space for a minute? You know, combining what are you talking about and the deep sea, we have a wonderful new challenge in the next century, and that's the moon of Jupiter, Europa, with its ocean, ice covered. Now that's going to be a feat for an astronaut team, intellectually -- in all respects -- to be first to reach that, penetrate beneath the ice and see what is in that water.

ELLIS: There is a comparable situation on this planet. And it is Lake Vostok. This is a lake in Antarctic under the ice that is the size of Lake Ontario. They believe that it has been sealed from the outside world for a minimum of 500,000 years, and perhaps a lot more.

EARLE: How long ago was Antarctica tropical?

MCLAREN: Over 40 million years ago.

EARLE: Very long time ago.

MCLAREN: Back in -- it was tropical when it was still part of, you know, Pangea, and then it didn't become cold until all these parts moved away. And it became isolated, surrounded by sea, and then that's when the temperature started to drop.

ELLIS: Big chunks are warming up now. Huge icebergs the size of Connecticut are breaking off. Calving, serious calving.

MCLAREN: There are areas of it clearly warming up. There are also clearly identified areas where the temperature is actually dropping. So it is sort of a confused signal.

SCHUSTER: Rarely does one hear about global warming in the context of the whole process of glaciation over the 26,000 year cycle. You know, you hear about what is New York -- what is its underwater? It has been, several times. What about France? France was under an ice sheet. They had penguins.

MCLAREN: Angela, what you are hitting on is the fact that nobody knows what's normal.

SCHUSTER: No, we have no idea.

MCLAREN: We don't have a baseline to work from, really.

Environmentally, we have no idea what's happening in either the Arctic ocean or the Southern ocean, and both play an important role in global climate change. We want to take the Russian Mir submersibles to the North Pole, not just to be the first to reach the real North Pole, but to see that entire water column, to take sediment samples, to see what life if any is there.

EARLE: The explorations of those who preceded us make our future explorations far more targeted, or meaningful, in the context of where are we going from here.

KAMLER: In every sense. We -- early explorers have opened roots, have showed us the way. And technological achievement has allowed us to bring to these environments things that were inconceivable just 100 years ago. The next challenge for us is to adapt the technology that we are developing on Everest to a practical widespread use throughout the world, and the potential is enormous.

We can present patients, sick people -- right in front of us in our tent at 40 below zero -- we can have a televised image sent back to Yale. So we have this incredible interaction from the most -- one of the most remote places on Earth, to one of the most sophisticated medical centers in world. And we proved it can work.

And how does that affect the rest of the world? The answer is that if we can make it work there, it can work anywhere. It can bring medical care all over the world, instantly.

EARLE: It is going to happen.

KAMLER: It is going to happen.

EARLE: It just has to...

KAMLER: It is going to happen.

EARLE: It's revolutionary, yes.

KAMLER: This is just a prototype. This is going happen.

EARLE: I want to dive into the depths of the planet, into the depths of rain forests. I mean, I love it all. But mostly I want to make certain that my kids, and their kids, and the kids of everyone in future, will look back to this point, this pivotal point in history, and instead of condemning us for being such -- so shortsighted and so stupid about using the natural resources that are at our disposal right now, instead to say thanks for doing everything you can, and keep the options open to take care of the wild places that are the underpinnings of what make the planet work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BATTISTA: For many people, the name Cousteau is synonymous with explorer.

RIZ KHAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, we will talk with the son of Jacques Cousteau, who carries on his late father's legacy.

ANNOUNCER: Mt. Everest has been summited 700 times, yet the deepest point in the world's oceans has been reached only once.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KHAN: As we dedicate this hour to exploration, where better to turn than to the Cousteau. Jean-Michel Cousteau is the son of Jacques Cousteau, and like his father before him, he is a pioneer of deep-sea exploration. And he is joining us on the phone from the Fiji Islands.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, good to have you with us.

JEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU, UNDERSEA ADVENTURER: Thank you very much.

KHAN: Let me ask you, while much of the world has been focused on space, Mars and exploration above, you have been looking down below on our own planet, how much do you think we have failed to explore what we have down here?

COUSTEAU: I don't really believe that, although I don't object to exploring the outer space, we know very little about our own backyard, which is covered with water. And the enthusiasm which is put into the space program has not reached the exploration of the ocean. And we trying desperately to make people realize that, not only there is a great deal to explore, not only in the deep sea, but also in the right in our backyard in shadows, and we are all tied up and the dependent on the quality of it, for quality of our life. So I hope the world over realizes that there is a lot more to do, a lot more to explore, a lot more adventures to come forward.

KHAN: Now part of our 100 hours of special coverage here on CNN for the millennium we spoke with Arthur C. Clarke, the man who wrote "2001, A Space Odyssey," and has many little predictions for the future. Some of the things he predicts are things like, you know, giant octopus, or squid I think he was saying, perhaps 75 meters long, lurking somewhere in the sea and looking under the polar ice-caps, perhaps finding new species of plant and animal life. What sort of wonders do you think are lurking on this planet that we have yet to explore.

COUSTEAU: Well, other than the sensational, and I am not sure he meant 75 meters, rather than 75 feet, but, they are there, they are definitely there, and they will be filmed and seen during this century, as we step into the new millennium. And we are going to find, perhaps, less spectacular species, but there are probably thousands of species of animals and plants in ocean or in the water system that have yet to be discovered.

I remember when I was in the Amazon, which is all shallow water, there were hundreds of species which have yet to be identified and described. So, we in for a century if discovery, and I think with the new technology, new communication systems that we have, a new way of recording sound and images in the depth, we are going to find and see absolutely extraordinary things we never thought about.

BATTISTA: Jean-Michel, it is Bobbie Battista here. We just listened to a conversation a few moments ago among a bunch of explorers up in New York talking about a number of things, and one of them was responsible exploration, which to some people might be an oxymoron, in the sense that when you go -- when you reach a new area of exploration, as soon as you touch it, it could be ruined. How do you limit the impact and the effects on the new areas that you discover?

COUSTEAU: Well, you know, there are six billion people on this planet, and obviously we are having a major impact. Nature does not care, we do, and it is the very important that all of our exploration and all of the discoveries are done with the maximum attention and care so we protect what we have come to discover. And allow others, future generations to enjoy it as well.

We have been on this planet for a very short period of time, and we may be there for a very short period of time, when you look at the whole history of life on Earth, millions of years versus billions of years. And I think, for our own sake, for our own interests in the end, whether it is health discovery or the pleasure of adventures, we have to take it one step at a time, with a maximum amount of precaution, and I believe we can do it. There is a lot of places that can be preserved. We need to set aside, like we have done on land, national marine parks or international marine parks, where perhaps only scientists are allowed or nobody is allowed, and keep it that way.

KHAN: Now, of course, as you speak to us, we are seeing some wonderful pictures of your work underwater there as well. Let me ask you, that kind of thing is very appealing for people to watch, and you do a lot of work with younger people. How responsive do you find them to be to your work and your efforts to preserve environment? And what sort of optimism do you have that they will start to look after the planet, perhaps a bit a better than some of us have in the past?

COUSTEAU: Well, the exciting things is that in this era of communication technology, where now we can speak from one end of the world to other, I was diving on the millennium on New Year's I was diving, we were underwater, and we could communicate directly with a group of people miles away to show them the marine environment. They didn't even have to be wet.

So with this kind of technology, we can appeal to young people. They are a lot more aware than we were at their age. Right now, I have 14 kids with me, and we go and swim and dive and show them pictures, and they are unbelievably responsible, and I think these are the leaders of tomorrow. They are people a lot more aware than we were at their age, and I include myself in there, although my dad pushed me overboard when I was 7. And I can tell you, the youth of today is really the hope of tomorrow.

KHAN: Sorry, I was just going to squeeze in a very quick final question then, and ask you where you will be focusing your efforts in the year to come, and perhaps a little built further down the line?

COUSTEAU: This year, you know, I was under the date line, as a symbolic way, at midnight. I have decided to focus on the preservation of coastal habitat and the quality of water, whether it is fresh water or salt water, because that will define the quality of our lives, and that is what ocean futures (ph) is focusing upon. I have the privilege of having Silvia Silvier (ph) on my boat, and we are going to work to that extent.

KHAN: All right, Jean-Michel Cousteau, pleasure to have you with us, joining us by phone from the Fiji Islands.

BATTISTA: Coming up in a moment, an explorer of a different kind.

KHAN: Steve Fossett's around-the-world balloon attempts have practically made him a household name. We will talk with him when our millennium 2000 coverage returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: From the first time a caveman -- or woman -- climbed a tree to get a better view, humans have explored their surroundings. In this hour of CNN's special coverage of the year 2000, we are honoring the instinct that's taken humankind from the depths of the oceans to the edge of the heavens and beyond.

KHAN: And it's safe to say Steve Fossett doesn't like to sit around the house. Fossett made his fortune in business, but he made his name sailing yachts and flying balloons faster and higher and farther than anyone else. He's welcoming in the new year in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and we welcome him.

Steve Fossett, great to have a chance to chat with you.

STEVE FOSSETT, ADVENTURER: Good to be here.

KHAN: You don't sit still. Yachting, ballooning, flying, is there anything left to challenge you as we go into year 2000?

FOSSETT: Oh, there's so much to do. And I had great year last year, and I really look forward to the things that I might do this coming year.

KHAN: I know many viewers always wonder what is it that drives people like you to such extreme challenges? It's not like you're just doing something simple. It's fairly grueling stuff.

FOSSETT: I view it as a vocation, that I've decided now that I've had my business career under control that I want to go out and do some very interesting things, the things that are fascinating to me.

KHAN: You have a number records already. What is it that -- well, how important is it for you to break records? How much of a driving force is that?

FOSSETT: Well , breaking a record is very special, because that means you've done something either better or faster than anyone else has done it. And I get a great deal of satisfaction out of that.

KHAN: Let me ask you about improvement in technology, what there has been over the past, say, perhaps five or ten years that might have made the kinds of things you do, the ballooning and the yachting and so on, that much better.

FOSSETT: Well, especially in ballooning there were some major developments in technology, that is the use of a combination gas and hot air balloon to be able to fly much longer distance. So I got involved in the sport of ballooning at this time, when it just became possible to fly a distance as long as around the world.

BATTISTA: Steve, let me ask you this question because people are always curious. What makes guys like you tick? What is it that makes you want to get into a balloon and sail across an entire ocean, especially when you've been -- you know, you're faced with so much failure?

FOSSETT: Well, actually I'm surprised by your question, Bobbie. In fact, I think these are the things that a lot of people would like to do. These are fascinating things to do, and I've just decided to launch off into them, and I think a lot of people would like to be in my place, to do something, you know, very adventuresome and very interesting in their lives.

KHAN: Well, Steve, we get to see -- obviously, the people on the ground get to see you take off in balloons and so on, don't really know what happens up there when you're above the cloud line and how dangerous it can be sometimes. What sort of incidents have you faced?

FOSSETT: Oh, I've had an on-board fire in my capsule, which is very worrisome, because I had to figure out a way to get the fire out without it burning up the equipment. And then one other time, I had the balloon rupture in a thunderstorm, and I fell from almost 9,000 meters to the Coral Sea.

BATTISTA: See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. There's a lot of people that wouldn't want to go through that.

Steve, what sort of advice do you have for, let's say, young people entering the new millennium in terms of where we might be at in terms of adventure and exploration in the coming years?

FOSSETT: Well, I think there's a lot of choices to be made. And everybody ought to, who's interested in exploration and adventure, should think about what interesting things there are to do and things that they might be able to do. And when you put your mind to that, you can come up with some very interesting things to take on in the next years.

KHAN: Steve, you know, you and a couple of people like you, like Richard Branson, for example, basically guys who made a fair amount of money and can indulge in these sports. It's fairly expensive stuff, though, isn't it?

FOSSETT: Well, I suppose we all have to choose our own financial level in these adventures, but there's a lot of levels in which to take this on. And there's ways of doing it with sponsorship. And so, in some ways it's elitist, but it's not completely elitist. It's accessible to many people who make up their mind to get into it.

KHAN: All right, balloons, yachts and airplanes in your catalog, so far. What about space exploration? Does that interest you?

FOSSETT: Well, I don't think that one's on my agenda. That one's just a little bit too big, too complex for me.

KHAN: Well, Steve, we wish you good fortune with your future adventures as well.

FOSSETT: Thank you.

KHAN: Glad to have you with us, thank you.

BATTISTA: Thank you.

KHAN: And, of course, if you'd like to speak with Steve Fossett about the future of exploration, now is your chance. Join Steve online at cnn.com in half an hour on the World Wide Web and get your questions ready.

BATTISTA: Well, speaking of space, up next, traveling to the great beyond.

KHAN: CNN's John Zarrella takes a look at the promise for the 21st century space travel, as our coverage of millennium 2000 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: We have been to the moon and shuttled through space -- all mere child's play compared to what experts see our children doing in the cosmos.

KHAN: Oh, and get in line now for your storefront in the galaxy.

CNN's John Zarrella reports it could be closer than you think.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 spacecraft would travel at tremendous speeds.

WINGLEE: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KHAN: Coming up, a slice of America.

BATTISTA: CNN's Larry Woods shows us how small towns are coping with the changing times.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: To close our show focusing on exploration, we look to a place millions of us have left behind.

KHAN: But some people have not and never.

CNN's Larry Woods takes us to a small town America where folks embrace a proud past yet eagerly embrace tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY WOODS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the new millennium descends on us with great expectations and historic pomp, let us move forward by looking back, looking back on one of the touchstones of our social evolution, small town America.

Under the microscope, Harrisonburg, Virginia, founded in 1780 and today, a bucolic backdrop to farms and homes, places of worship, and steadfast businesses. A community where 33,000 people work through the calendar of time in reasonable harmony and economic stability.

Like most small towns, anchored to proud past, a past that's been preserved to validate the antiquity of a people and place caught up in the vagaries of early 20th century growth pains and promises, gauging the rational for lifestyle and location in the Shenandoah Valley comes quick and easy for local folk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well one thing that Harrisonburg is known as friendly town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our economy is very strong. We have a diverse economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I just really don't know, I can go anywhere I want to, and get back in five minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is where I want to raise my kids. This is a great place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has always been an incredible diversity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know everybody. We know the problems. When they have problems, we are there to be with them and to assist.

WOODS: Many who have grown up in a small town ethos, say the experience spawns strong values, manners, character, a lasting work ethic, concern for others. To revere such attributes is readily explained.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a very good family system at home and I rely on my parents and my parents rely on me a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is more or less the closeness in families and neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have relatives, both real close relatives and distant relatives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are able to a little better degree enjoy what's going on around us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A good place to raise your family, crime rate is low, we are not crowded.

WOODS: But you know what's high on the list of men like Nolan McCombs, a life-long resident of Harrisonburg, lifelong friends, each year, as a new one advances, he hosts a down-home buffet at his construction workshop for business associates, employees, and good old boys he has treasured since childhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you are a friend here, it is sort of a responsibility. You are supposed to stay a friend.

WOODS: Caring comes in unsuspecting ways in small-town America. Artist Ken Shula (ph) gave 60 percent of his liver last year to save the life of Debra Parker (ph), a young women he never knew until he saw her father on television cry for help. He immediately picked up the phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I had a 20-year-old daughter and I thought, if she was in that predicament I would want somebody to help me, and I just got up and went right straight to the phone.

WOODS: At Harrisonburg High School, small gestures of help, help out too. Stephanie Spangler (ph), a senior, and Lucian Riddles (ph), a varsity athlete, are part of a pal program, that identifies and works with students often excluded from teenage inner circles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you talk to them, they are just totally different than what they may seem like. WOODS: Earlier this year, one such student considered suicide. The girl's depression frightened Stephanie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got her some help and she -- she is a lot better now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is a garden spot of the world.

WOODS: Boosterism is not restricted to the Chamber of Commerce, not when merchants are keeping faith on Main Street, trying desperately to survive the malling of America; not when James Madison University offers educational highways to a host of dreams and ambitions; not when local historian Bob Sullivan (ph) underscores the obvious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know people by their face, by their first name, and of course sometimes you know a whole lot more about them than maybe we should.

WOODS (on camera): Now every small town in America aspires to or must have bragging rights about something regardless. In Harrisonburg, it is the turkey. That's right, the turkey.

(voice-over): Don't grin, this is noble fowl primed Virginia's economic pump in 1999 with $200 million in gross income, thus the title, "The Turkey Capital of the Nation."

But once smallish Harrisonburg is starting to sprawl, new faces, new neighbors; traffic, and more traffic. Sound familiar? Some concerns are contemporary and real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This city is growing rather rapidly, and I think some people might prefer that it not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drugs is probably the big thing that worries most of us.

WOODS: Some lament the way they were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Families don't sit down to eat anymore at 6:00 in evening or whenever it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the late '40s, I would do mostly everybody in Harrisonburg.

WOODS: Everything has changed, but nothing has changed. Not all of that much in the small town America. And for that, we remain hopeful as we close out one century, and begin another.

Larry Woods, marking the millennium is Harrisonburg, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BATTISTA: In the next hour of CNN's special coverage of the new millennium: Gay culture all over the world.

KHAN: Changes in attitudes, changes in legislation. Are some cultures more accepting of homosexuals than others?

BATTISTA: We will examine that and more. CNN's special millennium 2000 coverage continues right after this break.

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