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Astronauts Space walk on Christmas Eve to Repair ISS Cooling Pump; Marines Ready to Enter South Sudan; Snowden Says He "Won"; Pope Francis Ranks High in Approval Poll, Celebrates First Christmas as Pontiff; Utah Legalizes Same Sex Marriage

Aired December 24, 2013 - 11:00   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: We'll talk live with an astronaut who knows firsthand about the dangers they are facing.

Plus, as concerns grow about an all-out civil war in the world's newest nation, 150 U.S. Marines are ready to move into the oil-rich South Sudan to evacuate Americans.

And Pope Francis, getting ready to celebrate his first Christmas mass in his new position. American Catholics, excited by new pontiff, and they're thinking about it in a new poll. We'll break it down.

Hello, everyone, I'm Deborah Feyerick in for Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW. Thanks for joining us on this Christmas Eve.

First up, risking their lives to save everyone on board the multi- billion dollar International Space Station, as we speak, two American astronauts are making what they hope is the last emergency repair to the ship's crucial cooling system.

These are live images that you're looking at from space and they are amazing.

It's been nearly two weeks of high drama for NASA. First, a crucial pump malfunctions, then to further complicate matters, they couldn't finish the repairs this weekend because of problems with one of the spacesuits.

CNN's Alina Machado joins me now, along with astronaut Mike Massimino. He's been on four space walks himself.

First, we're going to go to Alina. What is the latest on this complicated mission?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Deborah, we know the spare module or pump is already in position, and now they are continuing to work to properly install and hook it up to the International Space Station.

Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins are trying wrap up the job they started on Saturday when they removed a faulty cooling pump that's the size of about a refrigerator.

The pump contains ammonia, making their job even more delicate. Now, initially, today's space walk was scheduled for Monday, but it was delayed because they had to change Mastracchio's spacesuit which had a cooling issue that was discovered during the first space walk.

It's worth noting that NASA says he was never in any danger.

Now, Saturday's space walk lasted more than five hours. It was billed as a success so far.

This space walk has been going on for more than four hours. The hope is that they will be able to wrap things up and go back inside the International Space Station very soon.

And, by the way, this is the second time ever there has been a space walk on Christmas Eve. The first one happened 14 years ago.


FEYERICK: Alina, thanks so much.

Certainly, it's going to be a Christmas Eve they don't forget.

Now we're joined by Mike Massimino. You've been on four space walks yourself.

First of all, let's talk. How crucial is this operation to this mission?

MIKE MASSIMINO, VISITING PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hi, Deb, thanks very much for having me on your show.

It's an important space walk. We have two cooling loops on the space station, and one of those cooling loops was not working because of a faulty valve that's in this big pump module that they replaced.

So, in order to get the two loops back up again -- they were flying with one loop but if you lose the last one then you are out of luck, cooling-wise, and you get into a worse situation.

So, they want to bring that second loop back up, and they tried lots of creative things. and the only solution that they were left with was to go out and do these space walks to change out the pump module.

And that's going pretty well. They're almost done here. They will be done probably in a couple more hours and have another loop up and working.

So, it's very important, but it looks like it's going pretty well for them, so far.

FEYERICK: And, clearly, this is a device that basically keeps the space station cool, both inside and out.

They did have to suspend some of the science research that they were working on. You know, yeah -- and it's -- you look at what's going on out there, and it's difficult for most us to repair things without wearing those spacesuits.


FEYERICK: How difficult is it for them? What is their mindset right now?

MASSIMINO: Yeah, I have a hard enough time repairing things around my house. You can ask my wife about that.

Never mind when you're out there in space and things are floating and you're in this big spacesuit and you've got the magnificence of the Earth over your shoulder as a distraction.

But they're -- you know, they're -- we're well trained. And it really is an experience for the astronauts to get a chance to do this.

But we do a lot of training, and you're right; it's not that easy of a thing. It's like doing car mechanics with boxing gloves on. It's not the way you'd want to do it, but because you are out in space, that's the way you have to do it.

And you train and you learn over the years of training of how to work in that suit effectively, how to conserve your energy, how to use the tools appropriately, how to communicate with your space walking buddy and with the people inside the spacecraft and the people on the ground in order to get the job done.

So, the first time you try it, my first time in the pool in a spacesuit, and we practice in a big pool we have down in -- at the Johnson Space Center was pretty much an underwater disaster, the very first time.

But after many runs and years of training, you get pretty good at it and it's not really that bad. It just takes a skill that you need to develop.

FEYERICK: These are live pictures. You can see the two astronauts that are working there, which is just really incredible when you think that's 200 feet -- I'm sorry. Two hundred feet? Two hundred miles up in the air there.

The man with the red stripes, that's Rick Mastracchio. The other astronaut is Mike Hopkins.

But you've also got a robotic arm and that's being maneuvered by one of the Japanese astronauts, as well.

So, this is coordinated in terms of how they can replace this and how they're able to make sure that it's working, correct?

MASSIMINO: Yeah. It's a big ballet. You have a person on the ground actually talking to the astronauts in space, walking them through the procedure. Doug Wheelock is an astronaut doing that from the ground from Houston.

You have the two space walkers. You have Koichi Wakata, who's the Japanese guy you referred to. He's working the robot arm.

There are three Russian crewmates up there, as well, and they're helping out. They help with getting the suits ready and so on.

And you have the control team on the ground in Houston. Everyone in the control center, the instructors, the flight controllers, everyone.

It's a gigantic team to help do this, the space walk, the right way.

FEYERICK: Yeah. And just let's take about 15 seconds here and just kind listen in, because they're actually -- you can hear what they are saying.

Stand by one second, Mike.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Hopper, two-handed here, if you can step out, full forward, and see if you can depress the button then.

FEYERICK: And, Mike, walk us through a little bit.

Do you ever pause for a moment while you're doing all this?

You've been on four space walks yourself. Do you ever pause for a moment and just think how cool it is, what you're doing and, frankly, the fact that you are -- the view you have is not of the skyline but of the entire Earth?

MASSIMINO: Yeah, Deb, I did, and I think most astronauts do.

You're very involved in your work. You're concentrating because you know you're doing something important that you don't want to mess up and make a mistake. You want to do the best you can.

But -- and that's very rewarding. But the view around you, the experience of being in your own little spaceship, in your spacesuit, with the view of the Earth through your visor is just magnificent, to see the curvature of the Earth, to see -- to look, and you can turn your head and you can see the stars and the universe out there.

You can turn around in the other direction and you can see the Earth right there. It is incredible.

And, most of the time, you're out there working. You're not sightseeing. But I really believe those are the moments I remember the most. Those are the moments you remember your whole life, are those glimpses of the Earth and the universe while you're space walking.

It's just an incredible experience, yeah.

FEYERICK: Just incredible to be able to look at that. You're clearly part of a very, very elite club to have done that. And, clearly, we wish all of these people well.

And I remember being out in Arizona and being able to look up -- it was actually Utah -- being able to look up and actually see the space station which was simply circling around the Earth, really breathtaking.

Mike Massimino, happy Christmas. Thanks so much for joining us.

MASSIMINO: Likewise, a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

FEYERICK: Take care.

Well deadly violence erupted between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza this morning. Israel launched air strikes in retaliation for the deadly shooting of an Israeli civilian near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.

Hamas sources say a 4-year-old girl was killed and three of her relatives injured in the air strike.

U.S. Marines on alert, ready to take action to help evacuate Americans that are still in South Sudan, a country in the middle of a violent crisis.

We'll have more on the dangers they face, coming up just ahead.


FEYERICK: I want to show you some live pictures coming up from the International Space Station. Just amazing to watch.

This is happening live now. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Copy. We're going to go ahead and install the thing.

I have a warning here for you. You see the screw inside there. We call it the (inaudible) screw.

Do not touch or tether to that screw due to potential sharp edges on it and avoid pinch points.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And we're going to install that onto the Q.D., and let me know, Hopper, if you need me to walk you through steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible). You might have to adjust the screw length, though, Mike.

FEYERICK: And, as we move on, with concerns that South Sudan could be on the verge of a civil war, 150 U.S. Marines are ready to enter the country to evacuate any remaining Americans and also to protect the embassy.

CNN's Barbara Starr, joining us now from the Pentagon, and, Barbara, what's going to be the trigger to send in these Marines, and how long do you think they're going to stay?


They will only go into the South Sudan, of course, if there are orders from them, and the trigger would be the State Department.

The ambassador has to say, I need help, and that would be then the order that comes to the Pentagon.

And the reason they have moved the Marines closer to the South Sudan is so they are ready to go if there is an order, either to evacuate Americans or reinforce the embassy and secure it as this growing violence in South Sudan really begins to spin out of control.

The United Nations, growing increasingly concerned that tens of thousands of people there are at risk.

Right now, no orders from the State Department, no indication they're going to move any time soon.

But this is really sort of the shadow of the Benghazi situation hanging over the Pentagon. They don't want another situation where Americans are in trouble and they don't have forces nearby to help them.


FEYERICK: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

And, clearly, also, the shadow of Rwanda and the ethnic genocide that took place there, that's what they want to try to avoid.

Thank you so much.

Edward Snowden says that that he won and that his mission is already accomplished, that after leaking top secret document from the NSA.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns, joining us from Washington with more on Snowden's interview to "The Washington Post," and, Joe, Snowden says he didn't want to bring down the NSA, just improve it.

Any new revelations in this interview?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Deb, it's new that, even after all this transpired, Edward Snowden actually sat for this long interview with Bart Gellman of "The Washington Post."

And Snowden appears unapologetic, perhaps even emboldened by the world attention he's received, and while it's not all said and done yet, he says he's already done what he set out to do and that quote we've seen, "Before me -- for me in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished." He said, "I've already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work everything that I've been trying to do was validated," he says, because, remember, I didn't want to change society, I didn't want to -- I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it wanted to change itself. So, there's that.

And even though Snowden said he's already won it's clear we'll hear a lot from him yet because his revealing the extent of the national security agency's snooping is just a cause for him, Deb.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. Though he has won, he's also facing charges of espionage and felony theft of government property. So, he's holed up there in the Russian embassy. All right, Joe Johns thank you so much.

And today Pope Francis will celebrate a first. He will have his first mass as leader of the world's more than 1 billion Catholics. It's been a remarkable year for this new pope who seems to be taking his church in a somewhat new direction. We'll talk about it ahead.

But first because it's Christmas eve and Christmas we'll bring you holiday greetings from our military men and women who are serving around the world. Our first one from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


JANICE MASON, U.S. MILITARY: Hi, my name is IS-2 Janice Mason, coming at you from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I just want to wish my husband James Mason a happy holiday and I miss him, miss him, miss him in Cabot, Arkansas.



FEYERICK: Christmas at the Vatican is always big but this year it's a little bigger than most. It's the first Christmas under Pope Francis, a man who nine short months has elevated the healing mission of the church, that's a quote from "Time" magazine, and who the world in turn has embraced and embraced is perhaps putting it mildly.

A new CNN/ORC poll shows that more then seven Americans in ten have a favorable opinion of the pope. Almost nine in ten American Catholics say that they approve of the job he's done so far. It's not just about personality either. Only four percent of U.S. Catholics say the pope's positions are too conservative. Seven percent say they are too liberal, that leaves 87 percent saying they are about right -- 87 percent.

Okay. Personality is a big part it. Who could forget the first papal selfie? Gotta love that. Or Rudolph the red nosed pontiff. There you go, showing a sense of humor. He's celebrating here with newlyweds who work at a charity that brings clowns to sick children. No better promotion than that.

Clearly Pope Francis is not content to hand down blessings from the balcony. He comforts the afflicted with his hands, not just words. You've seen him cradling people. And he believes his mission is to serve as well as lead.

So, I turn on Christmas Eve to CNN religion commentator and host of "THE SUNDAY MASS," Father Edward Beck. This is astonishing, that 87 percent of American Catholics feel he's doing the right thing. That's off the charts, actually.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Right. They are poll numbers any politician would kill for, right?

FEYERICK: Definitely.

BECK: You know why they are so high? It's exactly because he's not a politician. I think, Deb, what people see in Francis is an authenticity. He is who he is. That's why they are responding to it. We really like when people are who they are.

This man, if you looked at who he was as archbishop in Argentina, he visited the poor, he lived in a simple little apartment. He kind of continued that whole train of being when he went to Rome. So he's been consistent. Then he's done all of this outreach to people on the fringe. The poor. Gays. Women. You saw some of those images there with the deformed people. People are just saying this is the kind of pope we want and need.

FEYERICK: What's fascinating, also is you compare him to the previous pope, Pope Benedict, and here you see Pope Francis right in the middle, right amongst the masses. He is -- you know he's got much more the common touch. He lives in simpler lodgings, drives a simpler vehicle, does not wear the famous red shoes that Pope Benedict was wearing.

What's remarkable to me is that he was man of the year both for "Time" magazine but also for the gay publication, "The Advocate" and -- which basically said -- they quoted him saying, if someone is gay and searches for The Lord and has good will who am I to judge? Is that the overriding message that we've got here -- who am I to judge? Is that what he brings with him?

BECK: I think what you see is if he can't judge -- the pope -- who can? That means nobody can judge. So, he's saying you can't be people who judge. You have to be people who approach what Christ would do. Christ was compassionate. Christ extended himself to the sinner, the outcast, the leper. And so this pope is saying you're not about judging that's God's job. You're about tending in a merciful way to people. That's what I think he's trying to do. We've seen it over and over again washing the feet of women on holy Thursday. Again breaking a barrier and not only that, but a Muslim woman. So I think what he's saying this is where the church needs to be and that's why people are so responding to him.

FEYERICK: Just to sum, is this a new agenda or simply a new philosophy?

BECK: I think it's a new perspective. He's shining the light somewhere else. You mentioned Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict was a great theologian. Very heavy.

FEYERICK: Great thinker.

BECK: Right.

FEYERICK: Absolutely.

BECK: If you read his documents, his apostolic exhortations, they're very theoretical. Now we read this pope's the first one, "The Joy Of The Gospel" and it's very down to Earth. We can understand it. You don't need a theology degree to understand it. So, he's not changing the theology, but he's making it more accessible for the ordinary person and the ordinary person looks and says gee what the church is about? That's where the church is supposed to be? I can buy into that.

FEYERICK: So he's communicating better the overall message of humanity.

Beck: I think so.

FEYERICK: Father Edward Beck, thank you much, and a very merry Christmas to you.

BECK: Thank you.

FEYERICK: And a good year.

Well be sure to join CNN for a special event tonight. We'll bring you the first Christmas mass of Pope Francis, that is at 6:00 p.m. eastern.


Well, a judge ruling means same sex couples in Utah can now get married and there's some legal maneuvers happening in Ohio that could change the rules there. Will there be more changes ahead for gay marriage? We'll dig deeper on that.


FEYERICK: Well same sex couples in Utah got an early Christmas present but it came with a big dose of controversy. A federal judge there denied the state's request to stop same sex marriages yesterday. That comes after he ruled last week that the state's ban is unconstitutional. Miguel Marquez has more.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For gay and lesbian couples in Utah, those two little words mark the sounds of victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now pronounce you bound together in the covenant of marriage. What God has joined together let no one put asunder.

MARQUEZ: On Monday, federal judge Robert Shelby ruled same sex marriages are legal, denying the conservative state's emergency request to halt them, calling the ban unconstitutional.

COURTNEY MOSER, MARRIED PARTNER IN UTAH: I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. I'm so grateful to finally have the protection of the state. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is it. It's go time.

MARQUEZ: Hundreds of LGBT couples now lining up at clerks' offices weathering frigid temperatures.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I braved the cold, all night long.

MARQUEZ: And long waits to tie the knot, getting their hands on marriage licenses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try number four for us.

MARQUEZ: It's a victory nine years in the making since the state's ban in 2004. Utah now joins the nation's capital and 17 other states that have legalized same sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a huge deal because for Mormons who have been spending these years fighting this battle, they've seen it happen across the country, but they really didn't expect to have it come to really their backyard.

MARQUEZ: : The conservative state's refusing to back down. It filed an appeal in the 10th circuit court. the state's governor accusing Shelby being, quote, " an activist federal judge," and saying he's working to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.

MCKAY COPPINS, POLITICAL EDITOR, BUZZFEED: It's going to be that much harder for conservatives to make the case this can be stopped when Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country, has now legalized it. Once the dominos start falling you won't be able to stop it.


MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


FEYERICK: On top of that in Ohio yesterday a judge ruled the state must recognize same sex marriages on death certificates. Same sex marriage is banned in Ohio, but the judge said if a couple was married in another state then Ohio cannot take that away and that could pave the way for a challenge to the state's ban.

Our legal panel joins me now. CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos, and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Gentlemen first of all, Utah becomes the 18th state to allow gay marriage. The judge basically said it was not a threat to traditional marriage as the state argued.

So what does this mean and why didn't he stay the appeal? Why didn't he say let's see how this plays out in court?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what, Deb? It's long journey and it's been a long journey for members of the gay and lesbian community and it's been a long time coming.