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Long-Term Effects of Oil Leak; Last Flight of Atlantis
Aired May 14, 2010 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Got to put food on the table.
And listen, I want you to watch tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, "Jobs in Focus: A Sign of the Times." It's a great series.
Want to kick off our next hour right now here on CNN. We're following two big stories for you.
A live look at history in the making right now. The space shuttle on the launch pad as we count down to one of the final missions, minutes from now. You're going to see it live. This will be one of the last chances to see something like this ever, and to see it live.
Plus, you know everything you've heard over the past month about the Gulf Coast oil spill. Forget about it. It could be much, much worse than we thought. We don't know how to stop it. We don't know the consequences. But we do know this: we've got General Russel Honore, and nor for sure, and he will not hold back.
First up, Shuttle Atlantis fueled up, loaded up, and gearing up for its final blastoff. It is scheduled for liftoff from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 2:20 Eastern. In just about 18 minutes you're going to see it live here, and we're checking in to see if all is going well.
Here's a little bit what's going on there.
Six astronauts on board for the 12-day delivery mission to the International Space Station. And here's what they're delivering -- fresh batteries. A Russian-built compartment for the space station, that's one thing, and a 20-foot-long mini research module known as MRM-1. It is crammed with food, laptop computers, and other supplies.
You see all of it right there. That's just some of it.
Now, this will be the 32nd and final trip for Atlantis, the first rocket up back in 1985. And it is the 132nd flight for the shuttle program overall.
Only two shuttle flights remain after this one, Discovery and Endeavour. And if everything goes according to plan, the 30-year-old shuttle program will end this year, sadly. But we're going to move on to bigger and better things, or smaller and better things. We'll talk about that.
The space station will keep operating until at least 2020. And NASA astronauts will hitch rides aboard Russian Soyuz rockets until U.S. private enterprise takes over.
As for Atlantis, though, it will be prepped for a possible rescue mission for the very last shuttle flight once it returns from the space station. So, ,its ultimate destination, of course, a museum somewhere in America, but we don't know exactly where yet. So we do know this -- it won't be on eBay, for sure.
All right, we're going to turn now to our other big story here on CNN, stopping an oil leak that is going from bad to much, much worse by the day.
For 24 days now, oil has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Now a new independent estimate says as many as 70,000 barrels a day are leaking. That's near three million gallons per day. BP says 5,000 barrels a day. That's about 210,000 gallons daily. It's a lot, no matter what the number.
So let's go back to that three million gallon-a-day estimate. Over a week, that amounts to a spill nearly twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. Did you hear that? And BP stands by their earlier estimate, but says they're not focusing on the measurement, they just want to stop it.
Meantime, President Barack Obama wants to make sure the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast community aren't forgot about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I also want to underscore the seriousness and urgency of this crisis. The potential devastation to the Gulf Coast, its economy and its people require us to continue our relentless efforts to stop the leak and contain the damage. There's already been a loss of life, damage to our coastline, the fish and wildlife and to the livelihoods of everyone from fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, right now, we don't really know how to stop the oil, and we don't know the long-term consequences of having this much oil floating around the Gulf of Mexico.
So, ,joining me now is CNN contributor and retired Army General, Russel Honore.
First, talk to me about the economy on the Gulf Coast. And do we know the long-term impacts on the economy there?
GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, regionally, the waters off the coast of Louisiana, in Plaquemines, in St. Bernard Parish, in parts of Alabama and Mississippi, that is the economy, because that's where the people make their living. In the broader perspective, as far as the state and the national, it doesn't pan out to be a big deal. But to the people who have lost their jobs, it's a big deal.
Putting this in perspective, Don, after Katrina, it took -- we only had a small amount of oil hit the Gulf. It took 18 months for those fishing beds to be cleared for fishing again. So, think a small amount of oil after Katrina, 18 months to get well. This is the type of disaster that's going to continue to give and going to be a problem for those who make their living off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Louisiana.
LEMON: Yes. I was just going to say that, you know, for people who live there -- you're from there, I'm from there, but it's also -- it's not just -- we talk about the economic impact and we talk about the environmental impact. It's really the way we socialize, you know, with our food and when we meet and greet in the summer, it's part of the fish fries. In the winter, it's part of our gumbo. In the spring, it's part of our etouffee and our crawfish.
It's really the way we come together there. So it has -- it's even much more. It's the social impact on that region, right, General?
HONORE: Yes, sir. It is personal as how we live and what we do every day. It's a part of the economy that drives New Orleans, which is the fun driver for the state.
The state of Louisiana, primary income other than oil right there, is tourism. And the food in New Orleans drive a lot of visitors there.
Look, we've got to go Draconian, Don. The president's going to have to appoint and take charge of this thing. He may have to seize their assets and charge them a billion dollars a day until that thing gets close.
LEMON: That's what I wanted to ask you. That's a good answer, and I'm glad you -- because I know that you get fired up about these things. But what about long-term compensation for fishermen? It's not their fault, really that this is happening, and they're going to be shut down.
So, what about long-term compensation?
HONORE: Well, I think that leads to the president declaring a national disaster just like he does for floods and tornadoes, so the fishermen and the industries, including tourism, as well as fishing and wildlife, will have a long-term plan to recover, and to either retrain or be involved in the cleanup of this mess that will happen for years to come. And right now we need a national presidential declaration of a national disaster.
LEMON: I hope he's listening.
I want to ask you this, General. This is when we really see you a lot, because it's coming up on the start of hurricane season, and you know hurricane season. Anything can be tossed ashore, you never know.
So, what are the implications now that hurricane season is upon us with this happening?
HONORE: That the surge from a hurricane could push this from the edges of the marshes of Louisiana, and push it all the way into Lake Bourg and get it into Lake Pontchartrain. That would be devastating. That would be absolutely devastating.
LEMON: General Russel Honore, you're right, it will be devastating. Thank you. And I want you to stick by, General, at the end of this show and watch my "XYZ." I'm going to talk about the social impact on the Gulf Coast with what's happening right now.
It's going to be very interesting. We're going to make it personal.
Thank you very much for that, General. We'll see you in just a little bit. Stand by.
And I want to tell you, on Sunday night, Lenny Kravitz will join me to discuss his support of the Gulf, of Gulf aid, a benefit concert to raise funds to help fishermen and their families. Don't miss it, Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. It should be a very interesting interview.
Listen, those terror raids that are going on over the Times Square bomb investigation, we're going to break down the money trail for you. Is it a long and winding one?
What's going on with that, coming up. Don't go away.
LEMON: Take a look now. Doesn't it look beautiful out there? The sky looks really blue, and you see that T minus 8:47, 46.
We're looking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and you can see people there gathering at the bottom of the monitor wall there, at the bottom of your screen. They're gathering because it's history in the making.
They're going to watch -- this is supposed to be the last Atlantis, at least, mission for now. And then two more missions in the fall. But this is really the end of an era.
And you heard the guy from NASA speaking earlier, Bobby Braun (ph), saying, you know, we're moving to something that's a little bit smaller, a little bit more specific. So, it's going to be the end of an era with that.
So, we're counting down here just a little bit on CNN. You're going to watch it live here on CNN. Don't go anywhere. 2:12, and it's scheduled to start here, oh, in about five minutes or so.
And again, we're checking in -- we check in with our Chad Myers in just a little bit. The sky looks beautiful, but you never know what's hovering around. You never know what's hovering around. So we'll follow that for you.
But in the meantime, as we wait on that -- and you're not going to miss any of it -- want to tell you about another situation that's going on.
We're talking about that whole Times Square bombing plot. We are learning more about yesterday's coordinated, multi-state terror raids tied to the Times Square bomb plot.
The FBI arrested three Pakistani men on immigration violations, but the fed thinks that these guys supplied the money that Faisal Shahzad allegedly used to plot an attack in New York City. The investigation is continuing now into whether these money men knew what it would be used for.
Either way, the FBI thinks that Shahzad tapped into what's called a hawala get his funding. Basically, hawala is an informal system of money transfers that goes back for centuries.
The word in Arabic can mean trust or transfer. Now, it came about as a way to transfer money over long distances when it was too inconvenient or dangerous to physically send by courier. Nowadays, it is used to move billions of dollars abroad every year, mainly in and out of South Asia and the Middle East.
Now, law enforcement experts say 99.9 percent of hawala transfers are totally legitimate. But the system is also used by drug smugglers, terrorists and other criminals who want to move money but don't want a paper trail of the money they're moving.
Here's how it works. Person A in country A wants to send cash to person B in country B. Person A contacts the local broker or hawala dar (ph), who takes the money plus a fee.
The hawala dar (ph) contacts a fellow broker in country B and tells them the recipient and the money amount. Well, that broker delivers the money in a day or two. Usually the two brokers don't exchange cold, hard cash. They pretty much work off IOUs and settle up over the long term.
Now, again, the vast majority of hawala transactions are legal and legit.
T minus -- what is it about six minutes and counting, producers?
Yes, until one of the last space shuttle missions kicks off. You're going to watch it live right here on CNN.
Boy, it looks like a beautiful day. T minus 5:49, 48, 47. And we're back in moments because we don't want you to miss a minute of this, history in the making, live on CNN.
You'll see it here.
LEMON: Look at that, live pictures. Gearing up.
Do you hear that?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Nice and easy.
LEMON: Let's listen. Yes, there we go.
LEMON: Nice, right?
I'm standing here with Chad Myers, and we're looking at Kennedy Space Station, and you're looking at the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad here.
And, Chad, it looks like all systems go so far. The weather's going to be good.
Also want to say we've got our John Zarrella down at the scene as well.
MYERS: Yes. There's the cap that goes on the very, very top of the shuttle. They'll be moving that away. There you go, on cue. They'll be moving that away.
LEMON: From your mouth to NASA's ears, right?
MYERS: I'm glad they're listening. They'll be moving that away.
LEMON: How cool is that?
MYERS: It really is amazing. And it's a great day, too. East winds at about 12 to 19 miles per hour. The 19-mile-per-hour gust is a little bit thresholdy (ph), but it's OK.
And look at the skies. You can just see blue everywhere.
LEMON: I didn't do that. It just pulled up. Oh, there we go.
John Zarrella, talk to us. We're looking at this here and we see close-ups. Just beautiful.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a spectacular day here, Don, no question about it.
And I'm joined by astronaut Dave Wolf, who is a veteran of three shuttle flights, plus a Shuttle-Mir flight, who spent, what, 160-some days in space?
DAVE WOLF, ASTRONAUT: Right, John.
ZARRELLA: You know, they're counting down here, an all veteran crew. And you flew to the space station when they were just building it, really getting it together. So, you know, now it's a finished product and they're ready to go.
What are they thinking here now, these last minutes or so?
WOLF: We're about to see a true miracle of human accomplishment. This has got to be one of the most spectacular things that humans can do, John. It's inspiring all the people over there watching and all around the world.
ZARRELLA: You know, Don, we heard from some folks at the visitors' center for you and Chad, 9,000 people just at the visitors' center alone, they bought tickets to this event. In 30 minutes they sold out. Everybody wants to come and see the shuttle now that it's coming to an end.
WOLF: They really do. This place is alive with people ready to watch, 140 million horsepower ready to be unleashed from that rocket.
ZARRELLA: Never have seen a vehicle like this before, and perhaps in our lifetimes we'll never see a vehicle like this again.
WOLF: Well, this is a unique vehicle. It's the world's only reusable spacecraft. It was able to build this space station. We are going to move on and develop new vehicles that will be in their place and their time.
LEMON: Hey, John, I want to jump in right now.
LEMON: Yes, I want to jump in right now, because as I said, it's history in the making. Let's just listen in to the last couple of seconds and let our viewers hear the whole thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saw the rocket booster nozzle gimble check. Firing chain is armed. Sound suppression water system activated.
T minus 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 -- go for main engine start -- 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and zero.
Liftoff of Space Shuttle Atlantis. The crest of its historic achievements in space.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, Atlantis is in the roll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, roll, Atlantis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston is now controlling. The roll maneuver is complete. Atlantis is in a heads-down position on course for a 51.6 degree 136 x 36 statue (ph) mile orbit. And the three main engines on Atlantis have now been throttled down to 72 percent of rated thrust as the orbiter prepares to pass through the area of maximum dynamic pressure on the vehicle in the lower atmosphere. Engines now beginning to throttle back up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are go at throttle up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy. Go at throttle up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All three engines looking really good, back at full throttle now. At liftoff, the fully-fueled shuttle boosters and external tank weighed 4.5 million pounds. It's now burned half of that liftoff weight in propellant.
One minute thirty seconds into the flight, all three auxiliary power units that provide hydraulic power to the orbiter's systems in good shape, as are the fuel cells providing electricity to all of the systems on board. Atlantis is already 19 miles in altitude, down range from the Kennedy Space Center 20 miles, traveling 2,500 miles per hour.
Coming up on staging, the point at which the twin solid rocket boosters burn out and separate from the orbiter.
Booster separation confirmed. The onboard guidance system has done its job of settling out any of the dispersions that have been introduced at the booster separation. Atlantis' performance thus far is exactly as planned, as Atlantis heads into orbit, flying heads down, wings level into a historic sunset on its 32nd mission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are two-engine tao (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, two-engine tao (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis can now reach Zaragoza in Spain in the event of a single-engine failure. However, all three main engines are still operating at full throttle, 104 percent of rated thrust.
The auxiliary power unit still in great shape, as are the fuel cells. Atlantis is traveling 3,700 miles per hour, at an altitude of 47 miles down range from the Kennedy Space Center, now 88 miles.
Atlantis is getting a boost from the orbital maneuvering system engines on the tail of the vehicle. Those have been burning now for about one and a half minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are negative return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, negative return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative return means Atlantis can no longer return to the Kennedy Space Center in the event of an engine failure. It's already traveling too high and too fast to return to the launch site. Now traveling 6,000 miles per hour, 180 miles from the Kennedy Space Center, at an altitude of 62 miles, or about 330,000 feet. This view from a camera on the external tank looking down the length of the orbiter as Atlantis heads into orbit on its 32nd voyage into space.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are pressed to ATO.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, pressed to ATO.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis can reach orbit on two engines should one fail at this point. However, all three are still in great shape.
I've got a report that the flash evaporator system providing cooling to all of the systems is also operating normally as well. Atlantis is traveling 7,700 miles per hour, 278 miles down range, 67 miles in altitude.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are single engine ops three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, single engine ops three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Standing by for the guidance system to take over control of Atlantis and roll the vehicle to a heads-up position. Just roll to heads up allows for --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are pressed to mico (ph) and single engine Zaragoza 104.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, pressed to mico (ph), single engine Zaragoza 105.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis can reach a safe orbit on two engines now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lucky dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That reference to the guidance system's choice of the roll maneuver.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a nominal shutdown on all three. You will be go for the plus X, go for the pitch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, copy, nominal shutdown, go for the plus X, go for the pitch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good readback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that roll to heads up provides a good satellite communications link with Atlantis, continuing its travel into space, approaching seven minutes into the flight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, you are single engine press 104.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, single engine press 104.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis can reach orbit on one engine now should two fail. However, all three are still in good shape.
Atlantis is now traveling 13,000 miles per hour, 580 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center, with an altitude of 340,000 feet, or about 64 miles. Shortly, the three main engines will begin throttling back to maintain the structural limits on the orbiter as it approaches loads near three times gravity.
All quiet here in Mission Control, with all systems in great shape. Atlantis is traveling 15,500 miles per hour, approaching eight minutes into the flight, down range, 740 miles, at an altitude of 64 miles, 337,000 feet.
Standing by for main engine cutoff confirmation as Atlantis is in excellent shape heading into orbit.
Main engine cutoff confirmed.
Standing by for separation from the external fuel tank.
Atlantis now flying away from the external tank after separation. Plus X burn maneuver being performed by Commander Ken Hamm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nominal mico (ph) not required. Preliminary ohms (ph) will be 37:30. We'll meet you in the post-ohms-one (ph) procedure. And welcome back to space for you and your veteran crew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, 37:30. And it's good to be back, as you know. And ohms (ph) one is not required.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good read.
LEMON: Always good to see. It's amazing to see every time and my heart skips a beat just watching it. It's like -- it's like listening to the "National Anthem," right, you get that feeling in your --
MYERS: I just love it when they say you're going 11,000 miles an hour and then in a minute --
LEMON: Going 14,000 miles.
LEMON: But there are two things, Chad, before we talk further, that you look for. The booster separation, everything's AOK, and then the external fuel tanks, and you're like, OK, OK, it's pretty much on target we're all good.
MYERS: And now they'll go frame by frame by frame by frame to look for the ice and the foam that can fall off, you know, the big orange -- the solid fuel booster tank.
LEMON: Yes. MYERS: And so they will see. And they always want to see that because remember what happened when the little bit of foam hit the wing there?
LEMON: And they're past any weather we have here on Earth. They're AOK now.
MYERS: They're in good shape. I do want to mention this rather quickly and we'll go back to Zarrella in a little bit.
We do have a tornado warning for Midland, Texas. Midland, Texas, there are storms that are rotating, especially almost all of west Texas here, southwestern Texas, that could produce tornadoes today. So there's a warning now for you Midland, Texas.
LEMON: Yes, we had to get that in. Very important that we warn people, and we're going to continue to follow that, our Chad Myers. We'll talk a little bit more.
Let's get back to Kennedy Space Center. John Zarrella, I was looking you at the monitor here when it took off and everyone -- you just kind of go, oh, look at that, and people are staring, their heads are just staring straight, straight at that shuttle. It's amazing to see every time.
ZARRELLA: Yes, it really is. I know you guys were just talking there about the critical point where -- you know, one of the things they'll do now, right, is they're going to take a look and make sure no foam issues happen. One of the first things they'll do when they can is get out the cameras and take a look.
WOLF: That's right. We'll reconfigure the vehicle this afternoon. They'll get to bed. In the morning, they'll use a robot arm with the set of lasers and optical imagery systems and scan the whole heat shield, make sure it's ready and then we'll do it again toward the end of the mission to verify.
ZARRELLA: After they depart from the space station, they'll check it one more time, make sure everything is good.
So picture perfect, like you were saying, though, it's tougher to be sitting here with me than it is in flying that, right?
WOLF: It's a little harder to watch sometimes, John. It's amazing, inside you don't see how much fire comes out of that 140- million-horsepower engine.
ZARRELLA: Dr. Dave Wolf, thank you so very much for spending some time with us here today.
And, Don, as you said, your heart skips a beat. No matter how many times I've been here and seeing this, you never get used to it.
LEMON: John, I want to -- we need to move on here, but I just want to ask the doctor again, when he says you don't feel that, what is it like being inside when you liftoff like that? What does all that G-force feel like? Tell our viewers what it's like.
ZARRELLA: I'm asked, what does it feel like when you're pressed by those G-forces on liftoff?
WOLF: Three Gs for that amount of time will wear you down. And in the spacesuit, you know, you're weighing upwards of 1,200 pounds with all your gear. So think a 1,200-pound piano on you or something.
ZARRELLA: Or the elephant I've heard it described as.
Don, it's an elephant or a piano, whatever you choose, but that's what it feels like when you're riding uphill.
LEMON: Something really heavy. Thank you very much.
Hey, listen, we got a chance to see history here, everyone, if you're watching, viewers. So I thank John Zarrella and the doctor there as well. You saw the final mission for Space Shuttle Atlantis at least going into space, we're going to watch it as it comes down safely back to Earth. Two more missions for the space shuttle industry there at least at this go around. We'll move on to something smaller and more specific, according to NASA, that's going to go further out into space. So we shall see, we shall see what the future brings.
We're back in a moment here on CNN.
LEMON: You know, Bangkok is nothing less than a warzone today, with at least seven people dead in clashes between troops and anti- government protesters. Dozens more are wounded as bullets fly in the streets and there's no sign of the tension easing anytime soon.
Here's where we want to go now, we want to go to Bangkok, Thailand where our Sara Sidner is standing by. This is where the troops and the antigovernment protesters have been locked in a deadly standoff.
So, Sara, here's the question. What is the very latest there?
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we came in and this evening went around the area. And what the government has basically done is closed down many of the roads, but you can't get very close to where the protesters have been, Don, for the past five weeks now.
And they're really trying to encircle them. They're trying to not let anyone in so that it can't get bigger. And what the government says is allow people out. In other words, they would like to move people out and start and make this is a smaller and smaller group of people until there is no one there. The government has been very strong in saying they do not want these protesters in that area anymore, and they would like them to be moved out or to leave on their own -- Don.
LEMONS: Sara, remind us who these Red Shirt protesters are and what they want.
SIDNER: They've asked the government to dissolve the parliament. They want that to happen and they want a specific date for that. And a lot of what you will hear from them is that they're unsatisfied with the government. They don't feel like the government in place represents them. Many of them are the rural poor or the working class. They feel like the government is elitist is not really representing their segment of society and so, they've asked the government to basically step down.
And the government, for its part, has after these protests grew and grew, decided that it would do so but on one condition. And that condition was that the protesters leave the area that they are in.
They're in a very nice area of Bangkok, in downtown, really one of the main shopping districts. There are large apartment buildings, there are tall, you know, high-rise office buildings as well as some department stores. And it's certainly not doing anything for the economy here. Actually, hurting the with economy here.
So the government has said, you must dissolve this. We will negotiate and we will dissolve parliament. But because that did not happen, the government rescinded, and so this sort of situation here has boiled over again and again and again. And certainly, violence today, Don. Seven people skilled, confirmed by the hospitals here.
LEMON: One of the protest leaders shot in the head yesterday. What's the status on that?
SIDNER: The last we heard, he was still in critical condition. Shot in the head last night, and that's all that we know as far as his condition health wise.
We should mention, though, he's sort of a divisive leader. He's not backed by all of the Red Shirts. There's been some tensions in those circles as well, not just the government trying to stop this. But people, basically, there are two groups, some that want to negotiate with the government and try to end this and others who in his case, he was very militant, he said no negotiations, we need to get what we want, we need to get it now, we need not to back down.
And so there was a bit of tension. So it's not that everyone in the Red Shirt Party is backing that kind of sentiment. Some of them do want to work these things out, but he certainly did not.
But at this point in time, all we know is that he's still in critical condition.
LEMON: Sara Sidner, thank you so much. We really appreciate that update for us.
We usually do what we call "Mission Possible," and we profile a person who is doing something extraordinary and accomplishing things. But this time, today, we focus on the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Really, the entire folks over at NASA, they're "Mission Possible." We're going to give you a wonderful slide show of today's historic launch coming up moments away.
LEMON: You know, it could have seemed like the end of the world for Dana Cummings when he suddenly lost his leg in a car accident, but now he is doing with one leg what he never could with two, he is bringing others along for the ride.
Here's this week's "CNN Hero."
DANA CUMMINGS, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: When I learned to surf, it was amazing. You feel such a powerful connection with the earth and the water.
I'm a veteran. I served in the Gulf War. I came back without injury. In 2002, I was in a car accident and lost my leg.
When you become disabled, you feel trapped. When I felt the first breath of freedom of riding that wave, I was, like, this is so good. It was so inspiring. I wanted to share that feeling I had with others.
I'm Dana Cummings and I started an organization to help people focus on their abilities, not their disabilities through the surfing.
We work with people with disabilities. A lot are veterans. We just want you to feel the rehabilitative power of the ocean and surfing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got hurt on my way home from the Navy. I remember waking up in the VA hospital and not being able to move my legs.
CUMMINGS: It's amazing the recovery he's made, because he was told he would never walk again. Now he's surfing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I owe a lot to Dana and surfing, what it does physically and emotionally and mentally is priceless.
CUMMINGS: Here you go, a long way, buddy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a little nervous, but once we got started, I wasn't scared anymore. It's really great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually got up on the first wave. Definitely coming back to do this again. It's awesome.
CUMMINGS: We always want to give our participants the power and passion for life that we have. They've got to push themselves to the best of their ability. And if we can give them the self-confidence, that is a gift that no one can ever take that away from them.
LEMON: What an amazing guy.
Since 2003, Dana Cummings and his organization have taught over 300 disabled persons how to surf and that number growing very quickly. So I want to tell you this, to nominate someone you think is changing the world, make sure you go to CNN.com/heroes.
OK, listen, I want to tell you what's coming up in a little bit. We're going to talk about the oil spill, because there's some developing news when it comes to that.
You see the thing here we have? "Mission Possible"? When we talk about "Mission Possible" we usually profile a person whose doing something that some people thought was not possible. Well, this time we're talking about the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the launch here.
Look at how beautiful it is. This is the fourth space shuttle mission, mission number four. It was the fourth space shuttle to be built, I should say.
Here's what it weighs, 4,500,000 pounds -- 4,500,000 pounds, that's what that thing weighs when it's at full capacity.
It's 25 years old, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is; five years it took it to build. And it's named after an ocean vessel, I think it was the first oceanographic research vessel. That's what it was named after.
Atlantis took flight first back in 1985. It was the second to launch after the Challenger accident back in 1986, remember that sad moment? And the total days that it has spent in space so far -- 282 days, circled the Earth some 4,462 times.
Total crew members that have been up there -- 185 on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. And it has traveled more miles than you and I or anyone we know has traveled -- 115,770,929 miles.
Very interesting. Listen, this is, as we said, history. It's the end of an era, right? But it's the beginning of a new era, because we're being told instead of these being the big sort of shuttles or rockets or what have you, there are going to be smaller more contained vessels, capsules if you will, more high tech.
It's go further and deeper into space and be more specific about what they're doing instead of just going to the International Space Station to bring equipment and what have you. It's going to try and go to Mars and beyond with very specific instructions and missions. So it's going to be interesting to see what the future brings and it's going to be interesting to look back over all the shuttle missions that we've had to see how history judges that.
And, of course, as we get to these last few shuttle missions we think about that 1986, right? That tragedy in 1986. Remember Christa McAuliffe, all of that? I remember watching in school. It was a very sad day. Again, we pay tribute to that, to the Shuttle Atlantis and we wish them safety, they'll be home safe, we know it. In the meantime, President Barack Obama is speaking out today on the oil spill. What he said coming up after this break.
LEMON: So right now, this is when we would normally chat with our chief White House correspondent, Ed Henry, in this segment, but Ed's off today. But we'll keep our focus on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
That's because earlier today President Barack Obama held a meeting with top advisers to see what can be done about the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There are conflicting estimates about exactly how much oil is leaking. BP is sticking with 5,000 barrels a day, but an independent estimate puts the number as high as 70,000 barrels a day, that's nearly 3 million gallons each and every day.
President Barack Obama says he understands just how angry people along the gulf coast are. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw firsthand the anger and frustration felt by our neighbors in the gulf, and let me tell you it is an anger and frustration that I share as president. And I'm not going to rest or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil in the gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of the gulf are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But the president also says the priority should be plugging the leak. Plugging the leak, cleaning the mess, paying all claims resulting from the initial oil rig explosion and gushing oil and making sure something like this just doesn't happen again.
Coming up, "Wordplay." You know, we do that every day, for today's edition we're going global. Our term has to do with this story that has taken a pretty bloody turn for the worse.
LEMON: All right, time again for some "Wordplay." And you can see it right there, "Wordplay." It's when we take a term right from the headlines that might be unfamiliar and explain it. Today, Red Shirt.
Now, if you're in to sports, then you know one meaning, a student athlete who sits out a season to extend their eligibility. Well, in Thailand, though, it means something very, very different. Their Red Shirts are anti-government activists, members of a group called the United National Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship. And yes, they wear red shirts.
They're in the headlines after weeks and weeks of demonstrations in Bangkok turned violent. Yesterday, Thai Security Forces were accused of shooting several Red Shirts in the head, one fatally. Today, hospitals report several more deaths and dozens more wounded.
For me, the Gulf Coast oil spill is more than a news story. It is personal, it is personal. You heard me talk to General Honore about it just a short time ago. I'm going to tell you why in my "X-Y- Z."
LEMON: In my "X-Y-Z" today, what else? Oil spill, and it is particularly personal to me.
It hits home for me because I grew up in Louisiana. The Gulf of Mexico was and still is a huge part of my life. My family, friends, classmates, neighbors, they fish those waters all the time. We vacation at least once a year on the Gulf of Mexico. It was our beautiful playground.
Have you ever seen how white the sand is in the Florida panhandle? How crystal clear the water is, usually? Pictures really don't do it justice. And for the past few weeks every phone call or e-mail from someone back home starts and ends with, that oil gushing into our precious gulf water, baby, ain't it just terrible? That's how we talk.
And, yes, it is terrible. Terrible because the people who love the gulf so much feel helpless, like they're not being told the whole truth. They don't know what to believe. They don't know exactly how it's going to affect their economy. They don't know exactly what it will do to the environment and for them that means fishing.
You have to remember what normally what goes into that water -- people, we swim in it -- and what normally comes out of it -- fish, shrimp, oysters. During Christmas, it is the rue in our gumbo. For Easter, the base to our etouffee, our crawfish bisque. The Fourth of July, the crab at our cookouts, the stock in our Jambalaya. It's part of our social fabric and as much as we are concerned about the environmental impact, we're just as concerned as how it affects the way we relate to each other, the way we relate to the millions of people we welcome from around the world every single year.
Ever visit the home of a Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama native? There's always some good food on the stove, the bulk of it, though, comes from the Gulf of Mexico and I bet you don't leave or didn't ever leave hungry. Imagine if that goes away for a few years? Talk about identity crisis.
Something to think about this weekend, and that is my "X-Y-Z." I'm Don Lemon, have a wonderful weekend.
Time now for my friend Rick Sanchez and "RICK'S LIST."
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, Donnie.