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Space Shuttle Discovery Fueled Up and Ready to Launch; Cross Debate; Chappelle's No-Show

Aired July 4, 2006 - 07:31   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The space shuttle Discovery is fueled up and topped off right now, 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. It's not quite like the commander has to put out a credit card, but the cost of this, it's about a million dollars per cycle.
So we're hoping today that liquid hydrogen and oxygen is put to use, creating several million pounds of thrust, sending Discovery toward the International Space Station, a rendezvous, and an important mission to bring about 5,000 pounds of supplies and a crew member. The first time there will be a third crew member on board the space station for any length of time since the loss of Columbia three and a half years ago.

Today's launch looks good as far as weather is concerned. And it comes on the heels of yet another debate over foam. The foam discussion continues. A lot of foamologists (ph) in and out of the NASA regime these days as we try to become experts on what the foam might or might not do to the space shuttle orbiter as it launches toward space.

The NASA administrator, Mike Griffin, joining us now to fill us in on the discussion that led to the decision today to launch.

Yesterday, when we saw the crack, there was some feeling, Mr. Griffin, that you had to do something about it because it is foam and it does potentially cause a threat to the orbiter. Look at what we saw with Columbia.

What has changed in that time?

MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, there were three concerns, Miles. The first one of those would be the question of, did enough foam come off that the insulating properties of the tank would be compromised? Of course, the foam is on there for insulation. That's its first purpose.

We verified that the thickness of the foam was a triangle about three inches on a side and maybe an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick. And we verified that the insulating properties of the tank are just fine. I mean, we have extra foam on there.

The second concern would be if enough foam came off to allow the tank to be locally heated from the ascent heating. That turned out not to be an issue, as well. And the third was, would we be likely to form an ice ball there? And the thermal analysis says no ice balls. And, oh, by the way, it's an area that we have on camera or can look at with human eyes before we take off, and if we see an ice ball, then that would violate our launch commit criteria and we wouldn't go.

O'BRIEN: So they'll be looking very closely, obviously, at that -- the so-called ice team. And they don't miss a trick out there.

One of the concerns was, how do you get your eyes on the top part of that structure, which is not easily visible from the base or from any of the scaffolding as you have them? And one of the -- the thinking yesterday was you might need a day to build some scaffolding, to go out there and look and make sure there wasn't damage on the other side.

You came up with another solution, or the crew did.

GRIFFIN: Well, yes, none of us high-level engineers or managers did, but the launch technicians, the pad rats, as some folks like to call them, or they like to call themselves, came up with the idea of putting a small camera, a borescope camera, through a long piece of flexible tube, elevating it up and working it around the bracketry that gets in the way of a direct visual inspection. They came up with an idea so clever, they decided that it was better than what they would have been able to do if they got on the scaffold. So they were pretty happy with themselves and we were happen with them.

O'BRIEN: A little bit of ingenuity there.

So you feel pretty confident that this strife (ph), this piece is not going to shed a big piece of foam that will cause any problem?

GRIFFIN: No, the shedding that was observed here, this tenth of an ounce piece of foam, comes off as a result of expanding and contracting the fuel tank as it's loaded with fuel. And those stresses are always there every time we tank and de-tank.

The foam which can come of has come off. If it had come off in flight, it would be no issue. It's half the size of the minimum threshold about which we were concerned.

O'BRIEN: This kind of cracking occurs as the fuel tank is filled with that super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. It contracts and then expands afterward. You went through two cycles of that over the weekend.

Will this change your thinking about when you fuel up, even on a day when the weather looks bad?

GRIFFIN: No. This is the ultimate non-issue, Miles. We have far more important considerations to take into account on whether we decide to fuel or not fuel.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this. Do you have the sense that all this attention on foam could put blinders on to other problems? GRIFFIN: Well, it could if we let it. We don't allow it to blind us to other problems.

We remind our teams frequently that, although, quite honestly, you guys in the media are focused on foam and we are paying, we think, the appropriate attention to foam, that there are 100 other things on the space shuttle that need close and careful attention in order to fly safely, and that that's where we need to keep our eyes.

O'BRIEN: Finally, let's talk about stresses on the schedule here. You have a date certain of 2010, end of 2010 to retire the shuttle fleet. You would like to do 16 flights to build up the space station, maybe a flight to repair the Hubble space telescope.

That matches up with the historic average of shuttle flights of a little better of four flights per year over the course of 25 years. But it's not the same as it was because there is a certain level of attention. We've only flown two -- this now will be only the second flight since Columbia.

Do you think it's a realistic schedule constraint, and should, perhaps, the retirement date of the shuttle be extended back?

GRIFFIN: Certainly, we do not want to extend the retirement date back for the shuttle. I need an orderly program planning and budgeting process to bring the program to a close. So we're doing the right thing.

You say it's different than it was in the past. Yes, it is. I have three orbiters fresh out of depot maintenance. Not only are they ready to go, they're more than ready to go.

The stand-down for a year since Discovery was, again, to deal with foam. We truly believe we have that in hand.

This flight will be -- allow us to resume the assembly work on the space station. And as you point out, the next 16, 17 flights are going to allow us to complete the job. We think we have it well in hand.

O'BRIEN: No launch fever here?

GRIFFIN: No, we -- you -- you have been around this business. We set up launch commit criteria months, weeks, days ahead of time. We work through the count.

If we get to the point where we're going to violate one of our launch commit criteria, we stand down. You saw that twice in the last three days.

If we get to the end of the count and we weaved our way through the launch commit criteria with no violation, we go. That's how we do it.

O'BRIEN: NASA administrator Mike Griffin.

Thank you very much. Good luck today to you and your team.

As it stands right now, the weather looks good. Eighty percent chance the weather will not stand in the way of the shuttle launch, 2:38 Eastern Time, when that very narrow window is at its peak time in order to rendezvous with the International Space Station, which will be passing overhead at the time.

Let's get a little bit more on the weather from the Kennedy Space Center.

Chad Myers at the CNN center with that.

Hello, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You get to interview all of the cool guys, Miles.

O'BRIEN: He just called you a cool guy.

Did you hear that?

GRIFFIN: Thank you. I heard. That's very -- that's very cool.

O'BRIEN: I think you made his day.


MYERS: He'll probably give me Kobayashi or somebody, right, later on today.

O'BRIEN: That wouldn't be so bad.

MYERS: It would be all right. I guess if he eats all those hot dogs.


COSTELLO: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Supporters of a war memorial in San Diego are encouraged by a new Supreme Court ruling. The high court has put on hold an order to remove a 29-foot monumental cross.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has more for you.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): War veterans visiting this scenic war memorial reacted Monday to the Supreme Court's intervention in a 16-year-old legal saga.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what 75 percent of the people of San Diego want. They want this monument to stay here as is. KEILAR: For half a century this cross has sat on public property, but a federal judge says it's a symbol of Christianity and an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion over another, ordering the city to remove the cross or pay a fine of $5,000 per day.

The high court put that ruling on hold.

(on camera): In 1989, Philip Paulson, a Vietnam vet and self- described atheist, filed the suit, claiming it violated the separation of church and state.

(voice over): His lawyer downplayed the move by the court.

JAMES MCELROY, PHILIP PAULSON'S ATTORNEY: The city can choose to leave it up there and not end up paying $5,000 fines, but do they really want to do that? The city attorney has already told them they can't win the appeals.

KEILAR: Even San Diego's mayor, who supports the preservation of the memorial, says the stay is not a victory.

MAYOR JERRY SANDERS, SAN DIEGO: It is merely an opportunity to retain the integrity of our memorial. And hopefully the high court will allow us to make our case.

KEILAR: Three years ago the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. And one constitutional expert does not expect that to change.

EUGENE VOLOKH, UCLA LAW PROFESSOR: The best bet is the Supreme Court is now going to rehear the case. The Supreme Court hears only 1 percent of the cases that it's asked to hear each year. And this doesn't seem to me like the sort of case the Supreme Court is just inching to get into right now.

KEILAR: For now, the Mount Soledad War Memorial stays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm absolutely flabbergasted and happy, because I had given up all sense of retrieving the cross and keeping it up where it should be.

KEILAR: And visitors will keep coming to the cross as long as it's here.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Los Angeles.


COSTELLO: And the Mount Soledad cross was dedicated in 1954 as a memorial to Korean War veterans.

Still to come, make sure you are not eaten alive this summer. We've got tips on protecting yourself from pesky mosquitoes.

Also, some important information if you plan on hitting the waters this Fourth of July. We've got some advice to help boaters have a safe holiday. Plus, "Chappelle's Show" is back on Comedy Central without its star's blessing. We'll look at the fight over the show's so-called "Lost Episodes."

That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: Summer is in full swing and mosquitoes are living large. So, how do you keep the mosquitoes and other summer pests from picking on you?

Holly Menninger is an entomologist with the University of Maryland. Holly joins us now from Greenbelt, Maryland.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: So, I see you are standing by a large body of water, which does attract mosquitoes.

MENNINGER: Yes, indeed. Well, mosquitoes breed in standing water. So, luckily, this spot has a lot of fish that will eat the larvae. But if you have any standing water in your backyard, you better watch out, because you are likely to have mosquitoes.

COSTELLO: Oh, yes. And a lot of people have standing water because of those torrential downpours, especially in the Mid-Atlantic states, you know, the Midwest, along -- in the Northeast.

So does that mean we're going to have a larger than normal mosquito population this summer?

MENNINGER: I would suspect we would. They love to breed in puddles, they love to breed in, you know, kiddy pools that people leave in their backyard. And trays (ph) and flower pots.

So I would suspect with all of this rain -- I know in my backyard that we have a lot of water -- that I'm expecting there to be a lot more mosquitoes than we typically see this time of year.

COSTELLO: So I guess common sense would say empty the pools, empty the flower pots...


COSTELLO: ... empty the birdbaths and you'll cut down on the number of mosquitoes.

MENNINGER: Yes, indeed.

COSTELLO: But they are still there, Holly. So -- actually, I want to ask you this question, why are mosquitoes attracted to some people and not attracted to others? MENNINGER: They really hone in on about three different cues. One, they are attracted to heat. Two, they are attracted to carbon dioxide you release when you breathe. And three, this is probably what makes some people more attractive than others. It's sort of your body odor. Some people are just sweeter than others.

COSTELLO: Sweeter, really? That's why, because you have a sweeter smell like naturally than others?

MENNINGER: Yes, exactly. I mean, you can probably make yourself a little more susceptible by wearing floral scents, but studies have shown that really some people have body chemistry that makes them more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

COSTELLO: I have that. I really do. And I'm not really happy about it.

So tell me, how can I protect myself? Because we always hear you should by mosquito repellents with DEET in it.

MENNINGER: Right. Well, the Centers for Disease Control actually recommends people use products with one of three chemicals. So DEET is probably the most common.

There's a newer chemical on the market called (INAUDIBLE). It's available commercially. I just saw some the other day at the store. And a repellent that contains oil, lemon eucalyptus.

So, any of those three are considered to be effective against mosquitoes.

COSTELLO: You know...

MENNINGER: Other things that you can do...

COSTELLO: Go ahead.

MENNINGER: ... would include avoiding being outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, wearing long sleeves.

COSTELLO: Let's go back to the repellents for just a second, because on the bottles in many drugstores now you see, "Protects against West Nile Virus."

Does that have something special in it that others don't?

MENNINGER: No. Those -- there are just mosquito repellents and other insect repellents that they're going to prevent mosquitoes from biting you. And mosquitoes are the carrier of West Nile Virus. So I think they're getting in on the hype there

COSTELLO: Getting in on the hype. Maybe it's working. I don't know.

Mosquito repellents for kids, any special advice? MENNINGER: Right. I would say that if you are going to use a repellent that contains DEET, you want to make sure it contains less than 10 percent DEET. And that as a parent, that you should apply it to yourself first and then apply it to your child.

Do not allow your child to apply it themselves. Avoid their face and their hands, because they tend to get it in their eyes and their mouth, and that's not very good.

COSTELLO: When do you have to reapply it?

MENNINGER: It depends on the concentration, the percentage of chemical that's in the insect repellent. So, for example, a product that contains 20 percent DEET should last about four hours.

So -- and you can kind of figure accordingly to that. So when you sort of start to realize it is wearing off, it's a good idea to reapply. Usually they last a couple hours.


So, backyard picnics, I have the Citronella candles burning, I have my bug zapper, like, hanging on the porch. Do those things really work?

MENNINGER: People tell stories. I know have occasionally used Citronella candles, and I think they work.

One thing that people buy and they spend a lot of money on are the mosquito magnets. You may have seen those at the store. They have a propane tank attached to them, and they work by putting out carbon dioxide and heat. So they're basically tricking the mosquitoes, making them think that their -- that the magnet is actually a person.

Unfortunately, mosquito magnets, while they may be effective, they will also suck in mosquitoes from your neighbor's yard and from a couple yards down. So I'm not sure I would spend a couple hundred dollars on that.

COSTELLO: OK. We will take your advice.

Holly Menninger, thank you very much from the University of Maryland.

She's an entomologist there.

Thank you for being with us this morning.

Coming up, Comedy Central says the show must go on with or without Dave Chappelle.

The fight over "Chappelle's Show's" lost episodes, that's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Happy Fourth of July to you.

They are all that remains from "Chappelle's Show." Some 15 months after the comedian famously walked away from a $50 million contract, the midst of shooting in his fifth season, this weekend "Chappelle's Show" goes on without him as Comedy Central presents the lost episodes.

We get more now from CNN's Brooke Anderson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The courts (ph) say Chappelle should receive $55 million.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But it actually was true. He did receive $50-plus-million.

DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: It sounds lucrative.

ANDERSON: In fact, these are clips from "The Dave Chappelle Show" shot before he vanished for South Africa, leaving fans and co- workers feeling downright abandoned.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Comedy Central adored him. The money up front was amazing. There was not a problem here. And so, to the outside world, everyone is still left wondering, how could Dave Chappelle walk away from such a golden opportunity?

CHAPPELLE: What's up MTV? Come on in, you broke (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

ANDERSON: Then early this year the comic began to resurface.

RAY RICHMOND, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": He did an hour with Oprah. He can't really describe it himself. He keeps talking in circles around why he did it.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Why did you walk away from $50 million?

CHAPPELLE: Well, I wasn't walking away from the money.


CHAPPELLE: I was walking away from the circumstances. They were coming with the newfound plateau.


OGUNNAIKE: He's done a number of interviews since leaving the show, and people still can't quite understand why he left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where's Dave at, man? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Africa.



ANDERSON: Four remaining episodes taped before he took off will premiere Sunday. "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" will be hosted by cast members Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings.

OGUNNAIKE: Comedy Central really wanted to make this work. They reached out to Dave on several occasions. They postponed the show on several occasions. They were really trying to accommodate this guy.

ANDERSON: Chappelle did not respond to CNN requests for comment about the network airing episodes without his participation, but had this to say to a newspaper in March...

"I fell like it's kind of a bully move," he said, adding, "That's just how I feel about it. If people don't watch it, then I'd be more than happy."

As for those left behind...

DONNELL RAWLINGS, "CHAPPELLE'S SHOW": I would just like to say, Dave, come back. I need the money. If you don't, I might try to talk like you and do the show anyway.

ANDERSON: The network tells CNN Chappelle has an open invitation to come back, but he hasn't called.

Brooke Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.


COSTELLO: And "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes," premieres Sunday night on Comedy Central. Check you local listing.

Let's send it back to Florida and Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Carol.

We're watching the space shuttle Discovery. The fuel tank is ready, topped off. And the question is, what may lie on the horizon as far as the weather goes?

We'll take a look at that and those concerns about falling foam. Have they finally been put to rest? That's coming up.

There you see the white team getting ready for the crew.


O'BRIEN: Closer to launch here at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA deciding a small piece of broken foam will not stand in the way of the launch of the space shuttle Discovery. But will the weather -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Serious charges against a former Army private in a brutal attack in Iraq. Now the military is deciding how to proceed.

A day of mourning in Spain after more than 40 people are killed in a subway accident. Now crews may have to tunnel underground to recover the overturned train.

And still no word on the fate of a kidnapped Israeli soldier as a deadline from Palestinian militants passes.

Also, tonight we'll see the rockets' red glare as the skies light up with fireworks. We are celebrating the Fourth of July on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And happy Fourth of July to you.

I'm Carol Costello, in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien, live from the Kennedy Space Center today, where the countdown continues for the launch of the space shuttle Discovery, set for 2:38 p.m. Eastern Time. We hope you will join us live here on CNN to watch that launch should it happen.

In the meantime, NASA engineers have settled a late debate over a small crack and a piece of foam that fell off that external fuel tank in the wake of two attempted launches over the weekend that were scuttled on account of weather.


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