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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  January 4, 2021 4:30am-5:01am GMT

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this is bbc news, the headlines: donald trump is recorded on tape asking an election official in georgia to find extra votes for him, in an attempt to change the official result of the presidential election in the state that certified joe biden as the winner. one of president—electjoe biden‘s advisors said they now had irrefutable proof of a president pressuring an official from his own party to get him to rescind a state's lawful, certified vote count. the white house has not yet responded to the call being made public. borisjohnson has warned that coronavirus restrictions in england are ‘probably about to get tougher‘ to curb the rise in infections. the labour leader, sir keir starmer, has called for a new national lockdown to be announced within the next 2a hours. those are your headlines on bbc news.
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with some schools re—opening on monday after the christmas break, there are concerns there won't be enough staff, because of worries over the new variant of coronavirus. the biggest teaching union, the neu, is advising members only to hold classes for the children of key workers, or those from vulnerable backgrounds. with more, here's our education correspondent, danjohnson. can the virus be controlled if these classrooms fill up again? it's a huge question, with all kinds of complications and implications. i've had two parents already contact me over the weekend to say that they've got concerns about bringing their children back to school. in oxford, some parents are making their own decisions and primary school head teachers like lynn are grappling with tricky issues ahead of children coming back here on tuesday. yes, the government are continually reviewing the situation but, actually, i want someone to say, "no, we are going to close for two weeks." "you're going to do something really well to make sure the children learn" and that, to my mind, would be far more
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effective than just having this constant anxiety behind everyone‘s feelings. "are we going to close, are we not going to close?" but staying closed would mean childcare. it would mean learning from home and the risk that some kids miss out and fall behind. since he's started, he's learned to read and write. we wouldn't have been able to teach him that at home, so it's amazing he's had that opportunity, so i want it to continue. i hope the teachers are prioritised for vaccinations, so that there is some element of safety in returning to schools, as it will benefit everyone, especially the young children. at the moment, i think it would be better if we didn't. i think it would be better if all the schools were closed, just till we got over this peak. there's pressure from teaching unions, councils and some local public health directors. some have already told their schools to stay closed. so, the number of children who actually return from tomorrow isn't entirely in the government's hands now. some further closures do look inevitable, whether that's through decisions made by councils or the government having no other option and that could well last beyond these first two weeks.
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so, the priority has always been to keep schools open as much as possible but there's an argument that taking some action now could help avoid further disruption in future. wales and northern ireland have delayed the return another week. and scotland's schools won't fill up until the middle of the month. in bradford, pupils are due to return under tier 3 but staff here, like elsewhere, could vote with their feet after teaching unions declared classrooms unsafe. whether we open or not depends on the number of staff that we have. and it's notjust teachers. there are other members of staff who've got real, genuine concerns as well, including kitchen staff. and obviously we would need to feed the children at lunchtime and if we don't have kitchen staff in school because of their concerns then that's another issue that i need to take into account when we make a decision. this evening, the local government association called for schools to have flexibility in making their own decisions. 20% of england's primary pupils
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already face a fortnight of home—learning and more areas are now saying their schools should join them and more schools are finding they haven't got the staff to open anyway. danjohnson, bbc news, oxford. now on bbc news — it's hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. scientists have discovered water on the sunlit surface of the moon for the first time. does it matter? well, maybe it does. the moon is back in vogue in terms of space exploration. the us says it will put astronauts back on the lunar surface by 202a. it's supposed to be the precursor to a manned mission to mars. my guest is jacob bleacher, chief exploration scientist at nasa. in this time of pandemic
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and climate change here on earth, is space exploration a potential lifeline or a massive vanity project? jacob bleacher in washington, dc, welcome to hardtalk. hey, thanks for having me. glad to be here. it's a real pleasure to have you. and i want to begin with that nasa announcement of little more than a week ago, where we learned that you guys have discovered a form of water on the sunlit part of the moon's surface. it seems extraordinary to me that we're still learning such basic things about the moon. so, just explain what this actually means.
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sure, absolutely. so, what we did was confirm that there is actual water in some of the sunlit areas of the moon. we've made some observations in the past that have identified hydrogen and oxygen, but it's difficult to determine from those observations if it's the kind of water that you would drink or maybe some other mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, like hydroxyl or maybe something more like drain cleaner. so, those are two very different things with respect to how we would access them, use them, study them. so, this observation, which actually used a different wavelength, was able to confirm that these are, in fact, water molecules. so the type of water that you would drink. so that's a pretty exciting observation. well, i can sense your excitement, but just be a little clearer with me what this actually means to the layman, ‘cause i'm interested.
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you‘ve got a, i believe, it‘s a picture of a moon crater right behind you in your office. if i were to go to a crater a little bit like that on the moon‘s surface, i‘m guessing i wouldn‘t be finding puddles of water. so in what form is this so—called water? yeah. so, this is a really important part and actually something that we‘ll continue to study. one of the reasons that our artemis programme is sending astronauts to the south pole of the moon is because we believe that there are vast deposits of water there, enough that we could use as a resource as well as study for science to understand the moon and the history of the solar system. however, where the water is located and how accessible it is, is really important to understand as we develop our systems for how to use that water. we know that water exists in some cold traps. at the south pole of the moon, there are depressions, impact craters that never see sunlight. so in those locations, the solar wind does not strip the water away, but they‘re really dark and really cold and hard to get to.
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so, this observation is telling us that there is water present outside of those cold traps. now, as you asked, what form is the water in? how much of it is there? well, we think that the abundance of the water, at least from this observation, is about equivalent to a i2oz bottle of water within a cubic metre of surface regolith or dirt on the moon. so that is not an abundance that‘s probably enough that we can use easily. but it does help us understand how to develop our systems. knowing that that water is present in a location where we don‘t have to go into the cold traps is very helpful to us. ok, that is all fascinating. and it interests me that you have put it in the context of the american artemis project, which, as i understand it, has been moved forward by the trump administration several years. so, the plan is by the end of 2024, you are going to have a new manned
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presence on the moon. you‘re claiming it will definitely be a woman as well as a man on the crew. and it seems to be the precursor to a much longer term commitment to having a pretty continuous human exploration on the surface of the moon, with the idea that it then teaches you things that you take onto a mars mission. all hugely ambitious. are you telling me that having this form of water on the moon could revolutionise the ability of that long—term plan to be put into practice? yeah, so being in a position where we can survive on the surface of the moon for longer periods of time, begin to place infrastructure there. a critical aspect to that is can you use any of the resources there? just like here on earth, if you go for a trip, it‘s a lot easier if you can stop off at a gas station or a store to pick up some resources on your trip so you don‘t have
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to pack all of it. so, with respect to going to the moon, if there‘s any way that we can use some of the resources like water, then we don‘t have to carry all that water off the surface. water‘s really heavy and it can be quite expensive to take. and it takes the place of other payloads, other science instruments, other technology that we may want to send to the moon to support that longer term presence that you referred to. so having that... let me stop you, doctor bleacher, ‘cause it seems to me that when one talks plans and ambitions, there‘s always a big gap between theory and exciting sort of notions that, you know, work in principle and actual reality. given that you‘ve told me this water isn‘t actually in a form that we are used to and that you‘d have to literally mine it to make it into water any astronaut could drink, this is not something that is going to sustain human beings in 2024,
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or even probably 201m. so, when one gets to the reality of a us plan for the moon, then mars, this seems to me pretty much irrelevant. well, you know, relevance comes in several different aspects to this too, right? there‘s using it as a resource, which i‘m talking about from a human exploration perspective. there‘s also using it as a science source. the water on the moon is relevant to us from a science perspective because we don‘t know exactly where all that water comes from. could be implanted by the solar wind. it could be the result of many, many impacts from micrometeorites through comets throughout the history of the moon. and so that water could tell us information, reveal secrets about the evolution of the moon, the earth itself and the solar system in general. so there‘s a science value that‘s really important not to get lost in this. just a final thought on this artemis project. do you want human beings to live on the moon in established communities beginning, you know, as early as the mid—2020s
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and moving forward? is that your plan in the united states? so, our goal is to initially take the first steps, which is being on the surface of the moon, successfully landing, beginning to learn how to operate in the south polar region so that we can access some of those resources that we may use in the future. that will lay the groundwork for being able to develop collaborative ambitions with commercial vendors, commercial partners, international partners. this is not solely a nasa endeavour. this is something where we hope to lay the groundwork over the next handful of years as a stepping stone to increasing capabilities, increasing our science activities, increasing our time on the surface into a more sustainable presence. that‘s going to depend on partnerships.
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so the true vision in the long run really depends on what our partners bring to the table as well, and will evolve according to what we find and discover on the surface of the moon, as we‘re preparing to learn how to survive in deep space. because going to mars as a goal down the road, that‘s a long trip. and so we really have to learn how to survive in deep space. and the moon and the orbit of the moon, orbits around the moon, are a great place to learn that when you can still get back to the earth fairly quickly. in the sort of vision you have, artemis, nasa is expecting the us government to stump up well over $20 billion by 2024 to get you guys back onto the moon. all the indications are congress is going to have a big problem with that. i think you‘re looking for more than three billion for the initial investment in some of the spacecraft. and you‘re struggling to get that. covid makes public finances even more complicated. isn‘t the truth that,
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unlike in the late 1960s, there clearly is not the political commitment to deliver on the timeframe and the scale of ambition that you want? well, the nice thing is for nasa is that we have strong bipartisan support. and so everything that you mentioned is a reality we have to deal with. but we‘ve been given our goal to land in 2024. and right now we‘re putting in place the contracts for the hardware that we‘ll need to do that. we have several elements that are a big player in this. we have the rocket, the space launch system that will be able to get our payloads, our astronauts into orbit. we have the orion spacecraft or capsule that‘s going to be the crew ferry that our astronauts will survive in. we have the human landing system, for which we have three teams under contract right now to develop those systems. and we‘re developing the gateway, which will be an orbiting platform around the moon that serves as sort of a command post in orbit from where we can make decisions on when to go to the surface of the moon.
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so, all of those elements are coming along. well, big ambitions. what do you say to very knowledgeable astronauts, former astronauts like michael foale, who look at the plan you‘ve got and say 2024 is, quote, "highly unlikely to be achieved?" again, we‘re on the path to do it. all we can do is build the systems that we need, present the plans that we have in mind, and look for the partnerships that we need in order to meet those goals. yeah, you keep... and we‘re on a pathway to get there. you keep talking about the partnerships, and we‘ll get to some of the billionaires who want to be partners in this project in a moment, but let‘s just stick with the us government, which is still the most important financier of nasa‘s project. what did you think when, having got the declaration from mike pence that this is going to be moved forward, ramped up, you‘re going to do it by 2024, you then, in the summer, you had a tweet from president trump saying that nasa shouldn‘t actually be focusing on the moon at all,
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it should be fully focused on mars and that‘s where the money should be spent? it seems like you‘ve got a political leadership, or you‘ve lived with one for the last few years, which flip—flops pretty dramatically on what it wants from you. ultimately, our plan has not changed and evolved. we are using the moon as a stepping stone to develop the systems that will, one, help us explore the moon, but also give us the foundational knowledge we need in order to take that step to mars. so, for us, the moon is part of the plan for exploring the moon and mars together. it‘s not something that we‘re doing in isolation, but it‘s what we need to collect that data. here‘s another quote that i wonder if you worried about when you heard it. i‘m sure you knowjohn holdren was a senior science adviser to president obama, very knowledgeable about the space industry. he said of the long—term mars ambition, "i don‘t think that whoever has opted for this goal
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has any idea about its real cost or practicality. sending humans to mars would be such a complex, expensive proposition, i don‘t believe it will be done at all unless major nations agree to do it together in a way that right now seems unlikely." again, we view the vision as a moon and mars application. we need to go to the moon to learn in prep for going to mars. when you try to bite off just the very end goal without that vision along the way, it certainly does seem difficult to do. and it‘s not easy. the goals that are given to nasa and to any nation‘s space agencies, they‘re hard. this is a hard business. but we‘re up to that challenge. and so we develop strategies that help us test the hardware, develop the technologies, and conduct the science along the way that gives us the data to know how to do it. so learning together is going to be important. and as you mentioned in that quote, you know, we need partnerships, and those partnerships are things that we‘re
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working on now. so the artemis programme is laying the basis, or the base, not only for the technology and the plan itself, but starting to outline how those partnerships will work. dr bleacher... all of this is important to get to mars. dr bleacher, i‘ve got to be honest with you. when you say we need partnerships, i‘m very mindful that not very long ago president donald trump said, "space is the world‘s newest warfighting domain." that was as he announced his new space force located in the pentagon, the defense department. donald trump‘s perspective on space and what it offers to the united states and the opportunities and threats that come with it doesn‘t seem to match in any way your notion of a real focus on international cooperation. our goal is to explore the moon as a stepping stone to explore mars. again, we work with partnerships in place. you mentioned space force, but we also have an air force.
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but that doesn‘t mean that we don‘t, on a routine basis, hourly basis, work together with other nations and partners to conduct air travel across the planet. but when you look, for example, at the chinese space programme, the ambitions that we see coming out of india, of course the russians with their own priorities and their own sort of military concerns when it comes to america and domination in space, does any of this suggest to you that the kind of international cooperation you want to see is actually going to happen? well, you know, we are working that right now. we have put in place something called the artemis accords, and we have a number of nations who have already signed on with us. and those are going to put in place some basic principles about how we work together moving forward. and so, as we do that, we‘re learning how to partner for exploration in space. so, you know, all these countries that you just mentioned have plans and ambitions, and sometimes will partner and in some cases
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maybe we won‘t partner. but that doesn‘t mean that we can‘t find ways to operate in a peaceful manner to explore these new destinations... as a point of interest, if you envisage over the next decades, for example, mines, mining for water on the moon, which could then provision longer—term trips to mars — it‘s a fascinating vision — but who would actually own those mines? what kind of property rights actually pertain on the surface of the moon? and how would america convince china, russia or other powerful nations that any infrastructure it puts on the lunar surface would be for a greater common good, and not actually something that the us is seeking to exploit for its own end? yeah, these are great points.
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and just to bring back around to the very beginning of our discussion, the first part of that is trying to understand what these resources are. that first step needs to happen and is happening right now with the science observations we‘re making. we have to learn a lot about those resources at the moon before they even become something that we can realistically use. and you pointed that out to me. so we have to develop that technology. then we put in place these agreements, the artemis accords, as a way to start exploring exactly what you just asked. how do we use those resources? we‘ve stated that those resources should be available for space exploration, but those are all things that we‘re going to have to work out as we move forward. so beginning to work together now before we even know exactly what the resources are and how the resources are replenished and how we can use those resources is really critical so that we‘re not trying to catch up once the resources are something that we‘re actually starting to use. and just a point for the record for our viewers around the world, as i understand it, neither china nor russia right
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now has signed up to those artemis accords that you‘re talking about. we had a first round of working out signatories on the artemis accords, and you‘re correct, neither russia or china signed those. but again, we believe that those are principles, they reflect principles that we would hope that all space—faring nations would follow. and we are going to continue to work towards bringing on partners for the artemis accords moving forward. let‘s shift our focus a little bit away from the nation states and potential rivalries and whether space is seen as a completely benign environment for cooperation or indeed whether it‘s sometimes seen for more militaristic and national interest purposes. let‘s move from that to the private sector. nasa appears intent, the us government appears intent, on tapping into the vast resources of billionaires like elon musk and jeff bezos, working with their companies on the space project. but isn‘t the truth that musk and bezos
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have their own agendas, they have their own interests, and they don‘t necessarily align squarely with yours and nasa? well, i would imagine that any business has its own goals and they maybe don‘t always align with what other entities might be doing. but what we‘re trying to do is develop a plan where we can really tap into the innovation and creativity of our commercial partners, both in the united states and then through international partnerships worldwide. we want to make sure that we don‘t leave any stone left unturned, as we think about how to approach this. and you‘ve mentioned multiple times that going to mars is hard, and we really need creativity. and the best way to do that is to develop kind of the baseline infrastructure we‘ll need to do it, which is what nasa is doing right now, and then bring those partnerships in, depend on that creativity from our commercial vendors, to be able to show us other solutions that may work. but i guess one of the points is, people like musk and bezos clearly are preoccupied, they‘re obsessed somewhat with space travel
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and exploration. the us public doesn‘t seem to be minded to be as interested. i think one of america‘s great historians said thatjohn f kennedy, he walked the walk, not just talked the talk, when it came to committing to space exploration. and you don‘t have a john f kennedy right now and you don‘t appear to have a public that is ready to commit to the resourcing that would be necessary for your vision. whatever bezos and musk bring to the table, isn‘t that a fundamental problem? i would disagree. i feel that we have strong support. we‘ve had bipartisan support from our congress and, you know, every time i go and engage in the public, there are many people that are there and excited about this, constantly doing interviews and talking about how exciting this is. but really what we‘re talking about here is these commercial partnerships. we‘ve had the international space station with crew on it for exactly 20 years today,
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20 years of operation continuously with partnerships, multinational partnerships, thousands of science experiments. we‘re now opening that up to more commercial participation as our vision focuses on the moon. so what we‘re doing is kind of seeing this expanding commercial and partnership presence into low earth orbit as we take the first steps to the moon and then bring that partnership along with us. this is a long process. we‘re talking about landing crews in 2024. but that‘s not the end. that‘s the very beginning of a long process. and as you‘ve mentioned, you know, getting to mars is going to take a while, and we need to depend on those partners and the excitement that we have from those partners themselves, but the public as well will come along with that. let me end, if i may, dr bleacher, with a more sort of philosophical point. the billionaire space guys like bezos and musk, they paint this dramatic picture of a future in which the human species sort
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of leaves planet earth and reproduces in space, whether it be in floating space colonies or on the surface of whether it be planets in oursystem, like, potentially, mars orfar, far away. you know, we humans ultimately leave our own planet earth and establish new communities out there in space. i talked about that with an astronaut, kathy sullivan, not long ago, and she said that, actually, she felt learning how to live more wisely on this planet in a more sustainable way and with a lighterfootprint should be the human species‘s priority. she said it was immoral and unethical to posit the notion that we‘re going to leave this planet, just abandon it, having spoilt it. where do you sit on that discussion? yeah, that‘s a very interesting discussion to have, and, you know, what‘s interesting about this, you hear the phrase "the sky is the limit". in this case, the sky is not the limit.
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we don‘t know what the limit is, and the visions we talked about, these innovative and creative visions, those are all envisioning an end state or a long—term goal, but what‘s really beneficial here is that these difficult problems that we have to tackle to meet these goals, they drive technology that is infused into everyone‘s everyday life. and so i would pose the point that, you know, in reality, understanding how to better use our own earth, how to more safely and cleanly use our earth depends on us using these technological advances. so, as we mentioned, how difficult it would be to use the water on the moon. well, a big part of that is being able to recycle your water on the moon. those types of technologies are things that benefit people here every day, and those are the types of technologies that would help us get to a state where we take better care of our planet here on earth, even as we advance farther out into the solar system. it is a fascinating discussion to have.
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and i thank you so much forjoining me, dr bleacher. thanks for being on hardtalk. my pleasure. thanks for having me. it‘s been a wintry weekend of weather, do watch out for some icy stretches throughout the course of the night in the early hours of monday, particularly in parts of eastern scotland, north—east england as well. during monday we will have further showers coming in here, a little bit wintry but they will be few and far between for most areas. most of the rain showers will be for east anglia, the south—east of england, down towards the channel isles, too. gusts of wind 30—40 mph, stronger than that around the coasts of east anglia and the english channel as well.
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temperatures 4—6 degrees but feeling colder in that wind, particularly in the south. not as windy further north. through monday evening into tuesday, further showers coming in, some icy stretches across eastern scotland, northern england once again. temperatures probably not quite as cold as recent nights but still getting down below freezing for many of us to start tuesday, so some frost and some ice around first thing. rain, once again, for parts of east anglia, the south—east of england and the channel islands as well and temperatures still cold for the time of year, around 3—5 degrees. bye for now.
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this is bbc news — i‘m sally bundock with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. president trump is recorded on tape asking an election official to find him extra votes in the state of georgia. democrats call the recording a disgrace. and it was a bald—faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the united states. five days after being approved for use in the uk, the first doses of the oxford university—astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine are to be given. a coroner in malaysia rules the death of teenager nora quoirin — who disappeared in august 2019 — was most likely through misadventure and did not involve anyone else.

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