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tv   60 Minutes  KYW  May 28, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> thousands of soldiers and civilians recently completed the bataan memorial death march, a grueling 26.2 mile marathon in the desert mountains of new mexico at an altitude of 4,000 feet. so what was this nearly 100- year-old man doing leading his own brigade over the course? >> we'll rest here ten seconds. one, two, three-- ten, oosh! >> it's a story for the history books. >> this is what's left of a neighborhood in the kern river valley. it's outside bakersfield, california. much of the valley burned in a wildfire that swept across 75 square miles. it killed two people and destroyed 285 homes.
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>> the challenge is, we've got houses in places we didn't used to have houses. and that puts people and h-- and property at risk. and so we're having to fight fire in a different way than we did before. >> looks like we've caught a dragon. >> it was moved into place. then, just over a month later, we joined robert bigelow at houston mission control to see it inflate, the last critical step. >> and the i.s.s. crew is ready for inflation. >> if it worked, it would make history: the first expandable structure for humans in space. so what is it like for you this moment watching this happen? >> severe curiosity as to what's going to happen next. >> jeff, we're ready for 15 seconds. >> copy, one-five seconds. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm lara logan.
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>> i'm sharyn alfonsi. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight on "60 minutes." go to great lengths frto find relief.ain finally there's drug-free aleve direct therapy®. a tens device with high intensity power that uses technology once only available in doctors' offices for deep penetrating relief at the source. aleve direct therapy. hookfor just $20 per month cper line with 5 lines.
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>> alfonsi: every spring, thousands of soldiers and civilians from across the country descend upon the desert mountains of new mexico for the bataan memorial death march, a rugged 26.2-mile marathon that some run and others walk. the event commemorates the infamous forced march of american and filipino soldiers by the japanese army that killed thousands on the bataan peninsula during some of the
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darkest days of world war ii. a disproportionate number of the american prisoners were from the new mexico national guard. it's why the memorial march is held annually at white sands missile range in southern new mexico. like many soldiers, past and present, colonel ben skardon takes part for the historical symbolism. we first aired this story last year, and decided to run it again this memorial day weekend. what makes ben skardon unique is that among all the participants in new mexico, he is the only survivor of the actual bataan death march. and one more thing: he is nearly a hundred years old. at 98 years old, what keeps you going? >> colonel ben skardon: it doesn't take anything to get me going, i tell you. i wake up in the morning and say, "let's go!" ♪ ♪ >> alfonsi: it's become a tradition: colonel ben skardon arriving a half hour before sunrise in his orange clemson
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jacket, as the corrals fill up with soldiers and american flags. many will carry backpacks weighing 35 pounds or more on the course. a few will be testing new limbs. before the bataan memorial death march begins, there is a ceremonial roll call. >> ben skardon? >> skardon: here! >> alfonsi: for those who survived the real thing in 1942 and who have come to brave the cold new mexico morning, ben skardon is the only one who marched then and will march now, into the desert of white sands. >> skardon: that's my mecca. it became a place where i'm supposed to think about what went on during the march. >> alfonsi: is it good to remember? because no one would blame you if you never wanted to think about that march again. but-- >> skardon: oh. no, ma'am. that's indelible in my mind. >> alfonsi: the arduous course that awaits him is an indelible reminder of the haunting
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procession of starving american and filipino soldiers who were ordered to walk 66 miles by the conquering japanese army. it was a march to the grave. thousands died along the way. the bataan death march, as it became known, is considered one of the most notorious crimes of world war ii. 74 years later in new mexico, ben skardon calmly watches as all 6,000 runners and marchers leave the starting line. and then he begins his pilgrimage. enjoy your eight miles. >> skardon: eight and a half. ( laughs ) >> alfonsi: he hopes to walk the marathon's first eight and a half miles as a tribute, just as he has done eight times before. under the gaze of the organ mountains, he's accompanied by what's called ben's brigade, a band of 25 friends, family members and former students of this longtime english professor
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at clemson university. an army medic and an r.o.t.c. cadet hover nearby, as do support vehicles, just in case. when you're 98, walking at an altitude of 4,000 feet, every mile marker can seem like a landmark. but the colonel is in no mood to linger. >> skardon: we'll rest here ten seconds. one, two, three-- ten, oosh! >> alfonsi: "oosh." it's what ben remembers the japanese guards bellowing when they wanted their american and filipino prisoners to keep moving on bataan. ben keeps moving in new mexico-- >> skardon: i got it. >> alfonsi: --over gulleys and sand pits. after passing mile two, he breaks into a rhythm, and song. >> skardon: ( singing ) >> alfonsi: water stations are named for towns along the bataan death march. volunteers have learned to wait
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for ben, so they can pay their respects. in april, 1942, in the earliest months of the war, ben skardon was an army company commander in the philippines. after four months of fighting, 76,000 outgunned and cornered american and filipino troops were surrendered to the invading japanese army, the largest surrender in american military history. the prisoners massed at the bottom of the bataan peninsula, which sticks out like a thumb along manila bay. where did you think you were going? >> skardon: i didn't have the slightest idea. i, geography-wise, i-- all i knew was manila would be at the end of the manila bay. and i thought we will probably end up in manila hotel. >> alfonsi: the japanese guards thought surrendering was beneath a soldier. they held their prisoners in contempt. streams of americans and filipinos were herded along the old national road in 95-degree
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heat, the sun searing their skin. skardon was already suffering from malaria when they first started walking, but he couldn't stop or slow down, not with the threat of japanese bayonets. >> skardon: that was the greatest fear on the marches, the bayonet. >> alfonsi: did you see people get bayoneted? >> skardon: no. but one got bayoneted right behind me. then i was out of there, and i was terrified. >> alfonsi: there were atrocities he couldn't miss. >> skardon: there were two in the middle of the road, americans, and they had been run over so many times-- >> alfonsi: by trucks? >> skardon: --that they were flattened out. and it-- you know how you cut out a silhouette of somebody? it looked like they were cardboard. you could pick them up. >> alfonsi: today, commercial traffic lines bataan's old national road, but the death march is remembered with signposts, little monuments to the struggle the prisoners faced as they walked through the
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mountains and low-lying villages. always, they headed north. skardon wondered if they would ever get there, wherever "there" was. >> skardon: and all i was just wishin' was somewhere we could stop. that's one of the miracles that happened to me, is to be in the condition i was in and to make the march, and to not even sometimes know whether it was day or night, because you just trudged along. >> alfonsi: prisoners dropped dead by the hour. food and water were scarcer than japanese empathy. >> skardon: but i had with me a can of eagle condensed milk. >> alfonsi: where'd that come from? >> skardon: and i don't know where it came from, but it was in my pocket. and i put my can of milk in there and held onto it the whole time. so at night, i pulled that out. i didn't show it to anybody. and i would suck on it a little bit. you know, saliva go down your
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throat. ooh, that was great! >> alfonsi: so that milk really sustained you? >> skardon: i feel that saved my life. now, when i tell you somethin' saved my life, it saved my life. that's not a clicheé with me. >> alfonsi: every time he marches in new mexico, ben skardon carries an emblematic can of condensed milk, as if it's a family heirloom. as the temperatures rise dramatically, the long sandy path can start to seem endless. but for ben, marching in this setting, at his own pace, with no bayonet in sight, is liberating. >> skardon: out here, you look wide, there's not a fence in sight, no guards. you could almost say there's immense freedom. it's also about people that i knew, who were like brothers to me, and not a single one of them got back.
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i'm very lucky, and this is something to me that is obligatory. >> alfonsi: obligatory? >> skardon: yes, i'm obligated to be here, to them. they aren't here, of course. >> alfonsi: "they" are henry leitner and otis morgan, fellow prisoners and fellow clemson graduates, who cared for skardon after the death march finally came to an end, eight days after it had begun. the finish line for the american captives was a disease-infested prison camp in the philippine countryside, where ben skardon became gravely ill. on top of his malaria, ben was afflicted with beriberi due to a severe vitamin deficiency. >> skardon: the danger of the beriberi was that it came up your legs. it got to your heart, it kills you. your feet were so sensitive, nothing could touch 'em without you doing, like that, see.
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henry would get hold of my feet. and then every time i jerked, he would squeeze. well, he would do that for hours. time meant nothing. >> alfonsi: otis, who spoke some japanese, came up with a plan: the bait was ben's clemson class ring of 1938. he wears a replica today. on the farm where the prisoners worked as slave labor, otis approached a japanese guard to make a deal. >> skardon: well, otis let it be known through the guard that he knew of a gold ring, would trade for food. so otis came in from the work detail with a live chicken, pullet size, very thin. >> alfonsi: you ate it all? >> skardon: and then they boiled it in a pail and then they take that chicken and broth and rice. man, that's great stuff! >> alfonsi: nourished again, ben recovered. >> skardon: somethin' restoreth my soul. the things that were done for
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me, i could never thank 'em enough. >> alfonsi: ben never got to repay henry and otis. late in the war, the unmarked ships they were crammed into en route to p.o.w. camps in japan were hit by american bombers, twice. ben survived both times. otis did not. henry died of pneumonia in a japanese p.o.w. camp. >> skardon: and if, if i could have cried, i would have cried. >> alfonsi: all together, ben was a prisoner of the japanese for over 1,000 days. he was finally liberated from a camp in manchuria, china by the soviet army in august, 1945. this is the first picture that was taken of him after he was freed. beverly is his given name. that was a happy guy in that picture. yeah, you look very thin here. >> skardon: well, i wasn't askin' for compliments. >> alfonsi: he came home to south carolina and taught english at clemson, where he was beloved by his students. but few knew what he had endured.
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>> skardon: i never spoke about it until i was 80 years old. i felt humiliated. >> alfonsi: humiliated. >> skardon: we had surrendered. yes, ma'am. i, that was one thing that i had a hard tug with in my own mind. we surrendered. we gave up. >> alfonsi: it doesn't matter that he was awarded two silver stars and two bronze stars for gallantry and heroism in combat on bataan. when you came back to the united states, did you feel like a hero? >> skardon: don't even say that word in my presence. i'm not a hero. it's not how much you suffer. that's not, doesn't make you a hero. >> alfonsi: just outside clemson's football stadium sits memorial park. etched in the cobblestones, are the names of clemson graduates who were killed in war. >> skardon: they are the true heroes, i suppose you could say. >> alfonsi: among them, otis morgan and henry leitner, the two men who saved his life. ben likes to visit often, and plant little american flags by their names.
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>> skardon: to me, there's a certain wonderment about my bein' here. >> alfonsi: how do you account for the fact that, you know, you were so sick, and you made it home, and these guys didn't? >> skardon: it remains a mystery. but i feel like that comes up when i walk out there. i like to say, "i'm walkin' for you, henry, otis." >> alfonsi: more than three hours after ben started, as he approaches the seven-mile point on his journey, his own finish line within reach, there are reminders that suffering and valor in war don't belong to just one generation. all throughout the day, runners and marchers grind their way around the mountains, and to the finish. 26 miles is too much to ask of a 98-year-old.
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long ago, he determined that eight and a half miles was his outer limit. but for the ninth time, ben skardon completes his personal march-- ( cheers and applause ) --a half hour faster than the year before. >> skardon: it's just a terrific, warm feeling. >> alfonsi: do you think you'll do it again? >> skardon: if i'm in this condition, i'll be here next year. i'll never turn this place loose. ( cheers and applause ) >> alfonsi: ben skardon did it again two months ago at age 99. he turns 100 on july 14th, and hopes to march in new mexico next spring.
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>> pelley: now, steve inskeep of npr, on assignment for "60 minutes." >> inskeep: fighting wildfires in america cost federal agencies almost $2 billion last year, including more than half the budget of the u.s. forest service. wildland fires are growing worse, in a time of drought and climate change, and the biggest and most destructive fires can't be stopped.
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they are a force of nature: imagine trying to stop a hurricane. yet the government has to try, because more than 100 million americans now live in, or near, forests and grasslands that can erupt in flames. this is what's left of a neighborhood in the kern river valley. it's outside bakersfield, california. much of the valley burned in a wildfire that swept across 75 square miles. it killed two people and destroyed 285 homes. the wildlands that fed this fire are the same wildlands that attracted residents like fred roach. is this the view that brings people to live in this spot? >> fred roach: it's the view that brought us here. yes, sir. >> inskeep: roach lives amid mountains covered with grass, so dry that lightning strikes or human activity can easily set it on fire. he used to be a firefighter, and saw smoke rise over the valley on june 23. >> roach: the wind was blowing 20, 30 miles an hour and it came right at us.
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>> inskeep: the fire moved miles in a matter of minutes-- faster than fire crews, under chief brian marshall, could keep up. >> chief brian marshall: i never expected this fire to do what it did. this is going to go down as one of the fastest spreading wildland fires in california's history. >> inskeep: why did it spread so quickly? >> chief marshall: wind. wind, coupled with drought. hot, dry conditions on a summer day in the kern river valley, and all we needed was a spark, and there was no stopping that fire. >> inskeep: it kept burning, despite the efforts of firefighters who spent $22 million trying to stop it. is there something the public doesn't get about the really big, fast-moving, dangerous fires? >> chief marshall: when you have the extreme fire behavior, when the weather, fuel, and topography sets up, there may not be anything that we can do. >> inskeep: more houses than ever lie within the reach of such fires.
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there are now 43 million homes in or near wildlands. they're in every part of the country. neighborhoods amid forests and grasslands are now so common, they have their own special name-- it's called the "wildland urban interface," where people can live close to nature and to the fires that burn there. >> chief marshall: these homes are part of the urban interface. this entire community here is the urban interface. and we are fighting wildland fires in the middle of these neighborhoods. >> inskeep: as more houses are built near wildlands, more of them burn. 50 years ago, wildfires destroyed a few hundred structures per year across the united states. now it's more than 3,000. last november, wind-driven wildfires near gatlinburg, tennessee killed 14 people and damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 homes and businesses. in northern california the year before, this fire burned more than a thousand homes, helping
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to make 2015 the most destructive and costly year of wildfires in u.s. history. >> chopper pilot: this is a lot of homes here and they're really close to this fire. >> inskeep: of the tens of thousands of wildfires that break out each year, only a few get this bad. but they're the ones that burn the most land, destroy the most homes, and cost the most, in often-futile efforts to fight them. >> robert bonnie: fire has always been part of the landscape. it will always be part of the landscape. >> inskeep: robert bonnie was under-secretary for natural resources and environment at the u.s. department of agriculture during the obama administration. for three and a half years, he oversaw the forest service, the country's largest fire-fighting agency. >> bonnie: over one thousand engine strike teams were summoned to protect life and property from an inferno. >> inskeep: for decades, forest service crews tried to put out every fire by the next morning. it was a heroic undertaking, with a side effect. they were stamping out fires that would normally have cleared
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out deadwood and undergrowth. instead, that fuel built up over time, setting the stage for bigger fires. >> bonnie: fires, in a lot of those forests, are burning differently than they did before. there are really two reasons for that. one is climate change. we're seeing weather patterns and extreme weather events, drought and other things that are causing those fires to burn differently. and the second reason is that because, for so long we preached fire suppression and putting out those small fires, we've built up fuel loads. and so, our fires are burning hotter. they're burning bigger. they're more catastrophic. >> inskeep: and the fire season, which once lasted a few months, now lasts almost all year. as the fires grew worse, more people were moving in. since 1990, 60% of all the homes in the united states have been built in the wildland urban interface, where the beauty comes with risks. in 2012, a wildfire swept out of the rockies and into these neighborhoods on the edge of colorado springs, destroying 347 homes.
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>> bonnie: the challenge is, we've got houses in places we didn't used to have houses. and that puts people and h-- and property at risk. and so we're having to fight fire in a different way than we did before. >> inskeep: tell me about the wildland urban interface. who's in control of it? >> bonnie: the federal government isn't in the bus-- business of land use. that's really done at the local county or municipal level. and the decisions that are made there have huge consequences for the american taxpayer, because we will spend more money, and today, are spending more money fire-fighting because of where those houses are on the landscape. >> inskeep: private property owner buys land, gets permission from the county or whoever to build a house, and the federal government ends up getting the bill to try to protect that house. >> bonnie: there's no question that we're spending more on the federal government side fire- fighting today because of houses in the landscape that-- that we had nothing to do with-- with approving. >> inskeep: over the last 20 years, all federal agencies together have spent $25 billion
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to put out fires. bonnie would rather spend some of that money thinning out forests before they burn. >> bonnie: we're not investing as much as we can and should in forest restoration, because we're having to spend all our money fighting fire. >> inskeep: wait a minute, forest restoration is prevention of horrible wildfires? >> bonnie: that's right. >> inskeep: are you taking money away from prevention? >> bonnie: absolutely. the other issue is, we put firefighters' lives in danger if we ask them to fight fires that essentially we can't stop. >> it's real dicey in the subdivision, kind of use your judgement. >> inskeep: since 1990, a total of 468 firefighters have died in the wildlands-- including these men. they were elite firefighters known as the granite mountain hotshots. in 2013, they deployed to fight this fire outside yarnell, arizona. time-lapse video shows how the wind shifted the fire in a dangerous new direction. the 19 men were trapped, and
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killed. in the town they died trying to protect, no residents were hurt, but 129 buildings burned. events like this add urgency to the work at a u.s. forest service lab. in this building in missoula, montana, scientists study how fires spread. and one of them, jack cohen, made a specialty of how to better defend homes. >> jack cohen: clearly, we're not going to solve the problem by telling people they're going to have to move their houses into a city, from being out in the woods. >> inskeep: not gonna happen. >> cohen: right? it's not gonna happen for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is that the population who live there, including me-- aren't going to do it. >> inskeep: is it reasonable for a homeowner in that situation-- a fire bearing down on their neighborhood-- to just say, "look, i pay my taxes. there are firefighters, there's a fire department. the forest service, if it's public land, has thousands of firefighters. it's their job; put it out?" >> cohen: so what if they can't? then, the question becomes one
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of, "well, if the extreme wildfires are inevitable, does that mean that wildland-urban fire disasters are inevitable?" and my answer to that is no. at no point did anybody identify how homes ignited. >> inskeep: cohen realized, if he understood the way houses catch fire, he could figure out how to protect them. >> cohen: what ignited this house and burned it down were the little things. >> inskeep: the little things. cohen learned that a wildfire throws up a blizzard of embers that wind can drive up to a mile. the embers, also known as firebrands, start new fires if they land on something flammable, like wooden shingles. wooden decks. firewood against a wall. pine needles in a gutter. >> cohen: and most frequently, the things that it's igniting is debris around the structure. it's the stuff that's there primarily because we live there. >> inskeep: jack cohen says he knows these are danger spots because he ran simulations with
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life-sized homes in a lab. >> cohen: we have firebrand generators, and you can watch millions of these brands then begin to collect wherever they land. if the base of the house has flammable material, we end up with fire. we see the gutters igniting and putting flame right up against the eave line. what if we don't have anything that can support fire within five feet of the structure? what if we don't have pine needles in the gutters, right? then the firebrands, it doesn't matter from how far they come, don't ignite anything, >> inskeep: just clean the gutters? >> cohen: clean the gutters. clean the debris off your deck. >> inskeep: last summer's fast- moving fire in kern county, california, became a real-world demonstration of jack cohen's research. kern county requires property owners to clear 100 feet of defensible space around homes. you can tell the ones who
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probably did, and the ones who likely didn't. one week before the fire, an inspection found that one house looked like this. a week later, the house looked like this. fire chief brian marshall says he didn't have enough fire engines in the county to protect every vulnerable home. >> chief marshall: maybe a 100 foot of defensible space isn't enough for this house. but it didn't have any. >> inskeep: if you were just driving through kern county, you might think it's completely random that this house burned, and this one didn't. the owner says it's not. it's the house of fred roach, that retired forest service firefighter. >> roach: this house right here was prepared and did not need the air tanker full of retardant or the helicopter full of water or all the engines to protect it. it, it was-- it protects itself. >> inskeep: fred roach thought about fire when improving his home, and says anyone can do what he did. >> roach: the house was stucco'ed about five years ago. and we stucco'ed everything under the eaves, the entire thing. >> inskeep: stucco's basically
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fireproof-- >> roach: basically, yeah. >> inskeep: --close to it? >> roach: close to it. and then, we took all the redwood decking off the deck, and replaced it with synthetic. >> inskeep: which doesn't burn nearly as-- >> roach: no, no. >> inskeep: --easily? >> roach: we had-- we had embers all over this deck and-- and nothin' happened. >> inskeep: so, now that you're retired, do you still find yourself mentally triaging houses as you drive past them? "that one's defensible. that one is hopeless." >> roach: of course i do. yeah. we discuss it all the time, my wife and i, you know. "i sure wish that they'd do this," or, "i sure wish that they'd do that." there's nothin' we can do about it. >> inskeep: which is frustrating to judy hyatt. she's president of the kern river valley fire safe council. it urges homeowners to make their homes less flammable. many people tell her they don't have time. when people have not properly prepared their homes, what do they expect from the fire department when-- >> judy hyatt: they expect-- >> inskeep: --fire approaches? >> hyatt: --them to be there. particularly the-- the aircraft. and most of the time they are. maybe this fire will cause people to have second thoughts, because this time they couldn't be there, and couldn't keep up
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with what was going on when they did get there. >> inskeep: do you think that most homes could be built and maintained in such a way that, when a fire approaches, people could just evacuate, wait for the fire to pass-- >> hyatt: i do. >> inskeep: --and otherwise ignore it? >> hyatt: i do. >> inskeep: meaning we could do a lot less to fight fires and just be prepared-- >> hyatt: yeah-- >> inskeep: better-- >> hyatt: you have to-- >> inskeep: at the beginning. >> hyatt: be prepared better, before you do less. because right now, we're not. we really aren't. >> this cbs sports update is brought to you by the lincoln motor company. kevin kisner won the dean and deluca invitational by one. and at the indianapolis 500, tacuma sato took the lead with five laps to go and earned the checkered flag, becoming the first japanese-born driver to win the indy 500. for more sports news and information, go to cbssports.com. jim nantz reporting from fort
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donald tmeet phil murphy,by former goldman sachs bankers. another wall street banker running for governor, whose firm helped trigger the financial meltdown that put millions out of work and out of their homes. murphy's trying to buy the election, paying off new jersey bosses. my name's john wisniewski, and i'm running for governor of new jersey. john wisniewski, the son of a millwright, who uncovered the bridgegate scandal and exposed chris christie's corruption. the choice -- insider wall street politics or main street, new jersey, values. ♪( taps playing ) >> this memorial day, honor our
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fallen heroes by volunteering to help their families. visit taps.org. cbs cares. >> logan: there's a new space race, and it's not between the u.s. and russia. it's between private companies. and it's attracted multi- millionaires and billionaires, like elon musk and jeff bezos. a less-likely player is las vegas real estate tycoon robert bigelow, who, at 73, is making the biggest gamble of his life. not on rockets, but on expandable spacecraft-- large, lightweight structures that inflate in space-- a technology that could dramatically change how humans live and work in zero gravity. nasa has partnered with robert bigelow, who's an unconventional figure in the aerospace world. he's more at home on the vegas strip than at america's space agency, and he's obsessed with
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aliens and u.f.o.'s. in the spring of last year, he and nasa carried out an historic test to prove his high-flying technology is ready to support humans in space. >> three, two, one, liftoff... >> logan: when elon musk's space-x rocket roared into the skies above cape canaveral, it was on a mission for nasa, carrying nearly 7,000 pounds of cargo to the international space station: food, supplies and robert bigelow's expandable spacecraft. >> robert bigelow: flying to the international space station, is a really big deal. it's an experimental spacecraft, which is a big deal. we don't know how it's going to behave, for sure. >> logan: does that make you nervous? >> bigelow: i'm nervous, because i'm a nervous person, i think, and i don't necessarily always expect things to go right. >> logan: bigelow's inflatable was packed inside the rocket's cargo capsule, known as dragon,
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which you see here making its way to the space station. we sped up this video from nasa because it took two days to get there. >> looks like we've caught a dragon. >> logan: it was moved into place. then, just over a month later, we joined bigelow at houston mission control to see it inflate, the last critical step. >> and the i.s.s. crew is ready for inflation. >> logan: if it worked, it would make history: the first expandable structure for humans in space. so what is it like for you this moment watching this happen? >> bigelow: severe curiosity as to what's going to happen next. >> logan: some 250 miles above the earth, nasa astronaut jeff williams injected air. it was supposed to last about an hour, but took two tries over two days. >> jeff, we're ready for 15 seconds. >> jeff williams: copy, one-five seconds.
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>> logan: finally, it worked. in this time-lapse video, you're seeing it expand in seconds. close to $300 million and 16 years to get here. but for bigelow, it was just a beginning. >> bigelow: this is the largest area on the property. >> logan: under 80-foot ceilings at his company in las vegas, he showed us his next generation plans for outer space. what are we looking at here? he calls this the olympus, a mansion for the skies. it's so large the rocket powerful enough to launch it is still years away. is there anything this big that astronauts are working in today? >> bigelow: no, nothing even remotely close. >> logan: bigelow said he can turn this space into anything a client wants: a first-ever orbiting hotel, hospital or inflatable research facility. >> bigelow: this is a full-scale mockup of what we call the b330. >> the b330 is smaller than the olympus. this is what it would look like
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if it were used as a space station. this can function on its own? >> bigelow: well, it can function as a standalone destination, because it has all the facilities that it would take to keep people alive. >> logan: for countries hoping to make their mark in space, bigelow said this offers an affordable way in. private industry, he believes, is becoming more dominant in developing space. >> bigelow: nasa and government still has a role because it is still in a sort of embryonic stage. and there will come a time when it's not necessary at all, and the commercial world will absolutely be the leader for everything in space. >> logan: what about the idea of national pride, and what we do as nations? of neil armstrong walking on the moon? he didn't do that for a private company. he did that for the united states of america, and it meant something. >> bigelow: you bet it did. and that created a period of inspiration that hasn't been matched ever since. so now we're looking for a new era that says, "all right, how
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can we now shape this to where it's more accessible for a lot more folks, at a lot less cost, and still have safety and reliability at the same time?" this would be exposed to the vacuum of space. >> logan: with no formal training in science or engineering, robert bigelow created an aerospace company with scientists and engineers that's achieved what no one else in the industry has done. his expandable spacecraft are the first and only alternative to the metal structures that have housed every astronaut in space for over half a century. ( explosion ) for bigelow, it all began with growing up in a time of nuclear tests. as a young boy, he would watch the skies over nevada light up with the bursts of atomic bombs. >> bigelow: witnessing those explosions, in the '50s and '60s-- you weren't aware of the ultimate ramifications of those kinds of things, but there was a real strong feeling of energy
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and-- a secretiveness and so forth, and it was cool. >> armstrong: that's one small step for man. >> logan: later, he watched neil armstrong take the first steps on the moon, a moment in history he said still inspires him. >> bigelow: the approach wasn't lightening fast. >> logan: but on this canyon road just outside las vegas, robert bigelow's story takes a turn that some may find, to put it lightly, improbable. he told us this is where his grandparents had a close encounter with a u.f.o. >> bigelow: it really sped up and came right into their face and filled up the entire windshield of the car. and it took off at a right angle and shot off into the distance. >> logan: the story sparked his obsession, and explains the alien looking out from the side of bigelow aerospace. and it made for the kind of conversation you don't
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ordinarily have with an accomplished c.e.o. do you believe in aliens? >> bigelow: i'm absolutely convinced. that's all there is to it. >> logan: do you also believe that u.f.o.s have come to earth? >> bigelow: there has been and is an existing presence-- an e.t. presence. and i spent millions and millions and millions-- i probably spent more as an individual than anybody else in the united states has ever spent on this subject. >> logan: is it risky for you to say in public that you believe in u.f.o.s and aliens? >> bigelow: i don't give a damn. i don't care. >> logan: you don't worry that some people will say, "did you hear that guy, he sounds like he's crazy?" >> bigelow: i don't care. >> logan: why not? >> bigelow: it's not going to make a difference. it's not going to change reality of what i know. >> logan: do you imagine that in our space travels, we will encounter other forms of intelligent life? >> bigelow: you don't have to go anywhere. >> logan: you can find it here? where, exactly? ( laughs ) >> bigelow: it's just like right under people's noses. oh my gosh. wow. >> logan: the f.a.a. confirmed
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to us that for years, it referred reports of u.f.o.s and other unexplained phenomena to a company bigelow owns. he told us he's had his own close encounters, but declined to go into detail. robert bigelow's quirky, and he knows it, but when you have as much money as he does, no one-- not even nasa-- seems to care. he bought the idea for his inflatable technology from the space agency. nasa had been working on this since the early 1960s, but when congress killed its program in 2000, bigelow seized the opportunity and invested tens of millions of dollars to advance nasa's original idea. it took him just six years to launch the first expandable spacecraft into orbit. his second followed a year later. but those were never meant for humans. at that time, bigelow was still trying to prove his inflatable structures would survive in
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space. a decade later, with both still circling the earth intact, nasa felt the technology was ready to be tested for humans. bigelow still monitors these spacecraft from his own mission control in las vegas. >> bigelow: genesis 1 on that screen, and genesis 2 on that screen, and these represent the locations of each of those spacecraft. >> logan: robert bigelow didn't start out a rich man. he made his fortune not far from the vegas strip, with this: a chain of low budget, long-stay rental apartments called budget suites of america. in a time of glitzy high-rises, he focused on creating homes for the city's temporary workers. and it paid off. today, he has 19 of these across three states. and made you how much money? >> bigelow: enough to support the aerospace indulgence and bigelow aerospace. >> logan: well, aerospace indulgence is a big term.
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so do you want to put a figure on that? >> bigelow: we're approaching $290 million. >> logan: of your own money? >> bigelow: oh, yeah, yeah. >> logan: so, for a man who has had extraordinary success in the business world-- >> bigelow: some, some. >> logan: --this space business is, financially, the worst investment you've ever made? >> bigelow: it's atrocious. i mean, we are not in control of our own destiny. >> logan: who is in control of your destiny? >> bigelow: we're hostage to what happens with transportation, space transportation. >> logan: thanks to innovators like elon musk and jeff bezos, bigelow told us reusable rockets, like this one you see sticking a perfect landing after launching his inflatable, are making routine space transportation a real possibility in the next decade. >> we're liking the movement that we're seeing here. >> logan: when robert bigelow's inflatable structure was added by nasa to the international space station, humans had never been inside one in space.
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this test would be the first time, and astronaut jeff williams, the first american to experience it. the interior only has sensors, and for two years, nasa will use them to monitor how this holds up to solar radiation and extreme temperatures. how far are you from us right now? >> williams: well, currently we're over libya, as i recall, but when we started this conversation, i think we were probably over the atlantic ocean. >> logan: from bigelow's mission control, nasa connected us with jeff williams on the space station. as we spoke to him about bigelow's inflatable room, he was orbiting the earth at nearly five miles a second. >> williams: i was very excited to be part of it and to be part of something new. >> logan: and how is it holding up? >> williams: oh, it's holding up well. it was-- a little bit cool, and that was expected. cooler than the air here, but not overly cold, and had that, new car smell that you would expect. and it was very quiet, too.
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>> logan: what do you think about men like mr. bigelow, people with deep pockets, private citizens, getting involved in your world, in the world of space? >> williams: oh, i'd say anybody that has the means to do exploration and is willing to jump in the game, more power to them. private enterprise is trying to open up economic doors to space exploration, and everybody will benefit from that. >> for a look at how "60 minutes" reports its stories, as well as interviews with correspondents and producers, go to 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by lyrica. before i had the shooting, burning of diabetic nerve pain these feet... kicked off a lot of high school games... ...built a life for my family... ...and liked to help others in need. but i couldn't bear my diabetic nerve pain any longer. so i talked to my doctor and he prescribed lyrica. nerve damage from diabetes causes diabetic nerve pain.
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we're getting a visit from the under secretary of defense duggan. we're replacing you and your staff. since when do you let anyone come in here and tell you what to do? hetty: he's right. i was at the helm when we were compromised. it's hetty. it's just a bunch of numbers and letters. granger: they're chess moves. it's called the queen's gambit. sacrificing a pawn to gain advantage. congratulations. you found your mole. you're the mole? (alarm blaring) we've been hit! hang on! sam: she's got no radial pulse. she lost about two liters of blood. get kensi out of here. (gunfire) come on, baby. (man singing call to prayer)

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