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tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  May 15, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT

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age of 89. the guitarist is credited with bringing blues to the mainstream. he was once considered the third best guitarist of all time and his name is synonymous to the genre. for more information go to www.aljazeera.com. >> this week on "talk to al jazeera" nasa administrator charles bolden. >> getting to space is very difficult. getting to mars is very, very, very difficult. >> he's been aboard the space shuttle four times. his missions included helping deploy the hubble space telescope and flying the first joint us/russia mission. >> i think we've always gotten along with everyone "off the planet" better than we have "on it" for one simple reason, we're mission focused.
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>> now he runs an agency that has transitioned away from space shuttle missions to one focused on exploration. >> everything we do in this agency is with the express purpose of making life better for people here on earth. >> he answers, in part, to senator ted cruz, chair of the senate subcommittee on space science and competitiveness. cruz is also a climate change skeptic. >> i don't worry about trying to change someone's mind, i try to present data that is very accurate. >> bolden service at the agency follows a decades long career with the marine corps, he retired a major general. it's a carrer a young black man growing up in the segregated south could never have imagined. >> i ended up going in the marine corps and ah, servin' in vietnam. my family and friends were sometimes bein' killed on the streets back home, i knew what i was going to face when i went back and yet, in that same period of time, we put a human on the moon! >> i spoke to charles bolden at
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nasa headquarters in washington. >> well, you've been on the job almost six years. >> that's about right. >> and curiosity rover is on mars. we've got a mission heading out to look at jupiter. we're getting ready to replace the hubble telescope. they're wonderful things. they're facinating things. they're groundbreaking things. but they're not necessarily all the same thing, which if you're watching from outside you might look and say, "well, what's nasa for in 2015"? >> yeah, the universe is a big place and nasa since it's inception has been about looking outward, helping us to understand the universe in which we live but more importantly helping us to understand this planet on which we live because it all begins right here. we were established in 1958 and since then we've been challenged by the national space act to make discoveries about our planet, make discoveries about the universe and, oh by the way, continue to keep the u. s. first in aeronautics and space exploration.
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>> since i was a kid, and as a boomer i was right in the sweet spot for nasa's heyday as an agency. and john glenn and gus grissom and on and on and on were figures that we talked about. those days, i think it was very easy to answer the question, "what is nasa for? "but as we're not,(laugh) emphasizing man space flight human accompanied space flight as much, is it a tougher sell? >> you know, nasa's heyday is today to be quite honest. our best days are ahead of us and today is the best day for young men and women who want to be in aeronautics and in the aerospace field. you ticked off several of the things that we've done just in the past six years. and i'm incredibly proud of the 18,000 civil servants and almost 40,000 contractors now who make up our family. and i have to remind people all the time, we are not, everybody thinks of us as a technical
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organization. we are a people organization. >> oh, no knock at at today's nasa. and i know you've got your virtual and physical fingers in a lot of different pies. but i think it's probably less well-known by the general public at large, and part of that must be that what concentrated our eyes on getting to the moon, that had us looking upward was the cold war context, the space race, the idea that america had to be first in a lot of other things. and right now we're one player among many. but there are a lot of players i mean, china, india, russia always. is it as clear to the average american what nasa's for as it was when we were trying to beat the russians to the moon? >> i think the fact that, there is no one player and that the players today include entrepreneurial interest academic interest, american
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industry--foreign industry. the fact that following president obama's direction to me, we have reached out and expanded the number of, what we call "non-traditional" partners, that is a tribute to the work that nasa has done. the whole purpose of establishing a space agency, in the form of nasa under our direction from, from the beg very beginning was to take things that we develop particularly technologies and get them out into the marketplace. i was an adult when we, set foot on the moon. prior to that, i knew what astronauts were but, i was not inspired to be one. i'm, i' a little different than, than a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. the times were different then. we, i lived in the segregated south. so doin' that was out of the question for me. today i cannot find an american kid or a kid in any foreign country who doesn't at least
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after they've seen me talk or heard me talk, doesn't at least have an inkling of thought that, you know, "i can do that". and that was not the "glory" days. "i think the glory days are today because it's today that we have expanded the interest in exploration, expanded the desire to be like us. we are the best nation in the world when it comes to exploration. there is nobody as good as we are. and it'll be some time before anyone's as good as we are. in, in two more years, we're gonna be launching americans from american soil. that will be key, to have an american capability to get our own astronauts into space will be key from a national pride standpoint. but we get americans into space today. we have not, we have not missed a beat since we, since we lost columbia back in 2003. >> well, scott kelly is on his way to the international space station. >> he's there. he's there. he's havin' a good time. (laugh) >> well, he's gonna be there for a year so he better be havin' a good time. >> he is, so far he's havin' a good time. (laugh) >> but he had to hitch a ride with the russians.
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and-- >> he didn't hitch a ride. i, you know, i, i, i, i, i hear that term all the time. it was, it was a planned evolution from, from the loss of columbia to today where we said, "okay". a couple of things we need to do. we need to get the international space station finished. that was an edict or a mandate out of the columbia accident investigation board. and the other thing we need to do is we need to migrate away from shuttle and try to start using commercial entities for access to space. it took several presidents saying we were gonna do that. but it took president obama coming into office and sayin', "look, we've gotta do this. you know, we, we need to do it". as a former shuttle pilot, i could not have agreed more. you know, i came into nasa in 1980 to, to go to space, to go to deep space. we weren't flying the space shuttle when i came in. that's how old i am. we were two years overdue. it was scheduled to fly in 1978, 1980 i arrived and we were still a year away from flyin'. but we finally flew.
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we had an incredible 30-year run, where we taught other nations. we taught american industry. we taught people how to get off this planet. >> well, scott kelly's gonna or, orbit the earth for a year. >> that's right. >> it's been a long time since an american has set foot on the moon. what's he gonna do up there? why is it important that he's there? what can we learn from long missions like that that applies to other things that you want to do? >> getting to space is very difficult. getting to mars is very, very, very difficult. we are going to get there in the 2030s. that is the ultimate objective of this administration and the current day nasa's, with humans. we have been around and on mars now for decades. we never left the moon. so those are, those are things that we have already accomplished. but getting humans to mars requires a lot more understanding of the human body and how it, how it is affected by long duration periods of time
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in a microgravity environment, in a radi, higher radiation environment. we need to develop our technologies a little bit better than they are today. we don't have resilient life support systems. so there are three things that we need. and i always, i always try to describe this as a three-legged stool because everybody can relate to a three-legged stool. leg number one is absolutely critical because it's the beginning. we've gotta be able to get to space. that leg's bein' filled out. the second critical piece is the international space station. that is our toe-hold on the rest of the solar system, if not the universe. and then the third leg is our ability to go to deep space. and that's two things that we're developing right now. it's a heavy-lift launch vehicle. we call it the space launch system, or sls. and it's a capsule. it's a module in which the crew will fly, and that we call orion. and when we put the two of 'em together we'll be able to get humans, back to the area of the moon and on to mars.
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if we don't have either one of those, we don't get to mars. >> in terms of complexity, in terms of cost, in terms of risk, it's exponentially more difficult to get a living human being to mars than research materials (laugh) and tools and diggers and rovers and all kinds of other things. what is it about the human element that makes us willing to spend that extra money, take that extra, extra risk and spend years more inventing the things that we need to do it in the first place? >> we seek to go to mars in particular with humans because it's in our dna. it is, it, it is a basic fundamental, manner of cr, of, a curiosity, if you will, for the human species to, to be able to survive on more than one planet. so that's one reason. the second reason is because mars tells us a lot about our own planet earth. we need to understand this planet a lot better than we do.
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mars used to be like earth we believe. mars now has a very thin atmosphere. mars is now barren and desolate. we think the solar winds have scraped off mars' atmosphere. so we want to understand that because we don't want this planet, to one day be the way that mars is today. so, you've gotta send humans at some point because as i mentioned earlier, robots are great. we've had robots on mars for decades. we have had m, robots on the moon. we will have a vehicle that's looking at orbiting in the vicinity of every single planet and dwarf planet, in the solar system. >> you know, recently a call went out for people who were willing to make a one-way trip to mars. would they accept the training? would they go on the mission understanding that they would never come back. and there was no shortage of people who wanted to try it. y, i bet you can relate to that? >> i can relate to that. however, i promised people when i go out and say i want young
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people, and i, and i will use the term young meaning age because i, i probably won't get to go to mars. we're not doing this for my generation. i am doing it for the generation of my granddaughters and, and younger because we're about, 20 years away from going to mars, getting ready to slip under the 20-year timeframe. and so it's gonna be those that we've got to inspire. and, but i tell them all the time, "i'm not gonna send you on a one-way mission". i am determined that we will have the technologies, we will understand the human body and its functions so that i can safely get you to mars, have you live on the planet for a year or whatever period of time it is and then safely bring you back. so that, 1) you can talk about it, you can help us prepare other people who are gonna go because we're, kind of, like pioneers. you know, we're, we're crossin' the mountains, heading over to see what's over there. but there is a lot of work to be done before we can, we can safely have people stay. and i need to have people come back and talk about it and tell us about what they experienced.
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>> there's a new congress and the, in the senate, the chairman of the committee of responsibility is someone who is, quite happy to tell you that he, is not sure that humans are capable of making changes in the atmosphere that change the climate. he wondered about all the earth science and observatory work that your agency is doing during a recent hearing. are you a little surprised that you're still having to explain that to people, and not just anybody but i guy who is pretty high up the food chain and also has some of your fate in his hands. (laugh) >> president obama has equipped this agency in the six years, almost six years that i've been here with, approximately 170, $107 billion dollars o, over the six-year period of time i've been here. and, and if my, if my numbers
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serve me correctly, about $49 billion of that has been devoted to human space flight and about $11 billion devoted to earth science. i happen to be one who believes that the most important planet in the universe, and we have now discovered thousands, the most important planet in the universe is the one on which we live. and our job here at nasa is to create incredible ground-shake ground-shaking instruments satellites that provide data to decision-makers. everything we do in this agency is with the express purpose of making life better for people here on earth. and i think we do that in spades. >> do you think you convinced senator cruz that the human beings can change the climate? >> let me tell you what i tell my daughter and, and other young ladies. and this, you're gonna say "what difference does this make"? they struggle every day to become, a fully integrated part of our society because women and minorities are still not fully accepted in our society as, as capable of being contributing
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members. and i tell them every single day, "look, don't waste your time tryin' to talk somebody into accepting you. do your job. do it well. and then if they don't get it, you will either be their boss and, you know, you can get rid of 'em or what". i don't, i don't worry about trying to change someone's mind. i try to present data that is very accurate. we say, "this is what we're going to do. we understand the president wants this. the congress wants this. the american people want it. we're gonna do this. we're gonna do it at that cost and we're gonna do it on this schedule." and every single year we have gotten better and better and better at being able to deliver on time, on cost, or sometimes under cost. every once in a while we have a burp, but that happens in any organization. >> still ahead on "talk to al jazeera", charles bolden reflects on the people who died in the fight for civil rights, paving the way for him and others.
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>> i'm ray suarez, this week on "talk to al jazeera" , nasa administrator charles bolden. >> you were born into a segregated society in south carolina. now, you are a retired major general. you've been to space. >> transitioned. >> a bunch of times. (laugh) >> my wife hates the term "retired."(laughter) i'm transitioned. >> well, you're no longer working as a major general. i know there is a precise u, use of that word, and maybe that wasn't it. (laugh) well, you ended your active duty career as a major general in the united states marine corps. something that would have been unimaginable when you were born. it seems like a good time to s take stock. i mean, you work for a black president. >> i don't take anything for granted. (laugh) let me tell you. i, my granddaughters are from a mixed marriage. so i have to explain to them you know, because of the, the shade of their skin why black
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history month is important. i try to explain to them the significance of the, of, of selma and the civil rights act and the voting rights act, and the critical importance of that. you know, i'm a part of this administration. and i am a part of the leadership of the greatest nation on earth. and, so i have to remind people we are where we are today, i am here where i am today because people died and sacrificed so that i can do this. and if we don't remember that and make sure that we maintain that, then there will, may never be another me sitting in this chair because we can go backwards just as easily as we can go, in fact, it's frequently easier to go backwards than it is to go forward. and i want to keep us stepping forward. and that's what we're doing. we now have commercial capability to get things and soon people to space. we have, i have 700, more than 700 agreements, international agreements with, with more than 120 nations. my predecessors back in the beginning of nasa, they didn't
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worry about any of that. they had one nation to worry about and that was the united states. i don't worry about it. i am very proud. you know, i just came back from watching scott kelly, launch out of, out of kazakhstan, baikonur. and had an opportunity to walk with him to the vehicle. i can't do that here 'cause we we just don't do things that way. but it was, it was, it was so invigorating for me to be walking alongside my fellow countryman who was getting ready to go and start one of the most incredible human journeys, that we've done in a long time. it'll be the first time an american has spent a year in space. and that's gonna help us on our stepping stone approach to getting humans to mars. and it is an incredibly valuable flight for us, an incredibly necessary flight. scott understands the risk. his family understands the risk. and, and he thinks it's worth it. >> you watched the events of the last 12 months. then you pick up the paper and see scott kelly with his
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russian counterpart heading up into space. do we get along better right now with russians off of the surface of the planet earth than we do right here on it? >> i think we've always gotten along with everyone "off the planet" better than we have "on it" for one simple reason, we're mission-focused. we have, we have a concrete mission. that mission right now with, with all of our, other four, there are five partner entities that run the international space station. and we are focused on making sure that the, that the international space station is effectively utilized. we are all focused on eventually getting humans to mars. that's an agreement among all the nations that are part of the, the international space station program. and so that is a singular focus for all of us. we can become multi-planet species. so, you know, that's, that's my inspiration and my motivation. i, i, you, you mentioned my growin' up in the segregated
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south. the year that i graduated from high school, ca johnson high school in columbia, south carolina, i lost my president. (laugh) let me tell you, that's pretty devastating, you know. i ended up going in the marine corps and, servin' in vietnam. my family and friends were sometimes bein' killed on the streets back home. i knew what i was gonna face when i went back. and yet in that same period of time we put a human on the moon! and then we did it over and over and over again six times. you know, tell me, that's why i say to people, "don't tell me what we can't do. i have seen it. i have experienced it". there is nothing like that-- >> on one of those visits to the moon we left a plaque that said, "we came in peace to serve all mankind". and that just sounded, like some more of that idealistic frabajaba (sic). but now that we're actually going into space with people
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from other places on earth, and working with them up there sharing information, telling people what we know, learning from what they've learned, it now seems more real to me in the 21st century that we may do something up there that serves all mankind than it did in 1967 when we had missiles pointed at each other and this was very much an american operation getting up there. >> i choose where we are today where with all the conflict that goes on down here on earth. you know, i am blessed to have the opportunity to have been, to have seen this planet from a little bit different vantage point than the average person has an opportunity to see it. my last flight in space was with, a person who is one of my best friends today, sergei konstantinovich krikalev, the first russian cosmonaut to fly on, an american spacecraft in the beginning of the shuttle-mir era.
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and sergei and i look back on our lives every once in a while and, you know, he for a while ran the gagarin cosmonaut training center in, outside of moscow in star city. and i, i became the nasa administrator. and the two of us, kind of, look at each other and go, "hey, how, who, how did they make these mistakes? but we you know, we understand. when i very, the first time i met him, we talked at dinner. and, i was not anxious to fly a flight with, with a russian cosmonaut. but i met sergei and vladimir titov, who was his backup. and we talked all night about our kids and what we wanted for the world. and yeah, is that idealistic? yes, it is. but is that, is that life? it, you, you bet it is. >> you"re watching "talk to al jazeera". up next, is the cost of space exploration worth it? charles bolden weighs in.
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>> you"re watching "talk to al jazeera". i'm ray suarez, speaking with charles bolden the administrator of nasa. >> throughout the years people have looked at the tremendous cost of doing space exploration and then looked at the problems on earth and said "boy, that would feed a lot of people". to those people who've heard the litany of basic science and breakthroughs that you've just mentioned, what would you close with to tell 'em "this is all worth it". >> it is all worth it. and they should be glad that their tax money is going to it because our mission or our vision is to, to, to pursue the unknown, to reach to, for new heights to pursue the unknown so that everything we do makes life better here on earth. i am incredibly proud that, you know, you could, yeah, we could spend the money elsewhere. we choose to spend it on technology and exploration and
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and discoveries that make life here on earth better. developments that we are doing right now, technological developments on the international space station: water purification miniaturization of medical instruments, those things are now in villages and small towns all over the world making life better for people. they never would have been done had we not had the necessity to do that because we had people living in a very hostile environment that we call space. so we are in fact spending every single dime of the taxpayers' money to make life better here on earth. i, i contend that that's much better than what you could do by taking that money and distributing it to individual people or individual locations or whatever you have. everything we do makes life better here on earth. every single dime of the taxpayer's money adds to the amount of effort that goes into teaching kids stem-related courses. so my $18 billion budget, i take $18 billion and put it on stem education and put it on feeding people. and, and some folks may say
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(makes noise) you bein' cute. i'm not bein' cute. ask a young lady who is, an expectant mother in some village in south america who now has a midwife with a doctor 200 miles away and the midwife has, you know, a little instrument that they can look at the fetus and beam it to a doctor wirelessly 200 miles away so that the doctor can, can tell. that's space exploration being delivered to that village. or somebody who is drinking clean drinking clean drinking water and cutting down on the death rate of, of infants. those are some of the results that come serendipitously in many cases from nasa research and technology development. >> charles bolden is the administrator of the national aeronautics and space administration. great to have you with us on talk to al jazeera. >> ray, thank you very much. thanks so much. >> "inside story" takes you beyond the headlines, beyond the quick cuts, beyond the sound bites. we're giving you a deeper dive
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into the stories that are making our world what it is. >> ray suarez hosts "inside story". only on al jazeera america. >> this is al jazeera america live from new york city. i'm tony harris. the boston marathon bomber is sentenced to die. dzhokhar tsarnaev showed no remorse. the amtrak derailed train engineer said that he does not remember the crash. the first of eight victims is laid to rest. making history in cuba the minnesota orchestra is the first to improving relations with havana.