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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  May 10, 2022 4:30am-5:01am BST

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this is bbc news. the headlines: the russian leader vladimir putin has addressed the huge victory day military parade in moscow, saying the invasion of ukraine had been provoked by the west, and that russian troops fighting there, were "defending the motherland". but he didn't say how or when the war might end. with more than 80% of the votes counted in the philippines presidential election, ferdinand marcoer is heading for a landslide win. unofficial results indicate mr marcos — known locally as �*bongbong' — has more than twice the votes than his main rival, the outgoing vice president, leni robredo. the queen has pulled out of tuesday's state opening of parliament, in london. it will be the first time since 1963 the queen will have missed
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the annual ceremony which sets out the british government's legislative agenda for the year ahead. prince charles will deliver the speech instead. now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. never mind all the problems humans face here on planet earth, we still have an unquenchable curiosity about the cosmos. but in practical terms, where is our fascination with space taking us? it's more than five decades since the first moon landing and nasa is struggling to keep its promise to make a return journey — and, by way of preparation, of course, for a mission to mars.
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my guest, jim green, retired as nasa's chief scientist earlier this year. are problems of money and geopolitics undermining nasa's mission? jim green in silver spring, maryland, welcome to hardtalk. thank you so much, stephen. it's a pleasure to be here. well, it is a real pleasure to have you on the show, and you have had a pretty remarkable four—decades—long career inside nasa. but if you are being honest with me, would you accept that nasa's golden era came and went long before even you arrived at the agency?
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well, indeed. nasa has had, actually, several golden eras and it is a matter of perspective. you know, the programme has not only humans that explore beyond ea rth�*s boundaries, but also we have missions that study the universe or move out into the solar system and explore, and we have absolutely exploded in those areas that you may not be aware of. well, i kind of am aware of them because i've done plenty of research into you, and you've been intimately involved with research missions to mars, jupiter — some remarkable work has been done. but isn't it true to say that the public imagination is only truly 100% captured when nasa is sending human beings to explore rock, celestial bodies, beyond our own? isn't that the truth? well, of course, we have that
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connection with humans and we want to be there, and i think that's what the attraction is. when humans step out on the moon or they float around on the space station, that, of course, is going to garnish the public attention. but, you know, our robotic missions, you know, are very personal to us. we spent a significant amount of our career building them, launching them, landing them or having them rove and we get to know them and their idiosyncrasies really well and we cry when they die. so, in a way, you know, humanity has been exploring the solar system and has been exploring the universe in new and unique ways. if i ask you to sum up what nasa is for in a very brief mission statement, what would it be? exploring the universe and answering some of the top questions we want to know —
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are we alone, and how did we get here? does the fact that the funding coming from the federal government to nasa has been slashed? if one looks at the history of this, around the time of the first moon landing, i think the us government was pouring 4% or more of the entire federal budget into the space programme. these days, nasa's lucky if it gets 0.4% or 0.5% off the federal government. does that suggest you that the politicians and the the public, too, have lost interest or faith in nasa's mission? i don't look at it that way. indeed, we have a large amount of our budget going into building the infrastructure that we use and are leveraging right now, but i think we get tremendous public support and attention. you have to think about, like any budget, a balanced budget.
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so, what portion do you want to use on domestic programmes, what portion do you want to use for nasa to explore space? and, in fact, congress has been very bipartisan in terms of its support of nasa, allowing us to continue on at a steady rate, making some spectacular discoveries. well, you, jim, clearly are an optimist, because what you appear to be avoiding there is the issue of underfunding. jim chuckles. the politicians, for years, have been talking about their enthusiasm for nasa's mission to take human beings back to the moon as a prelude, then, to pushing on to a crewed expedition to mars. they think that is something the public would like and is enthusiastic about, but they're not prepared to pay for it. you've had to already, before you left nasa's chief scientistjob, you had to accept that the money wasn't there to deliver on getting this mission up to the moon again by 2023.
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it slipped to 2024, it may even slip years beyond that. what is going wrong? well, of course, we all went through a pandemic. how can we, as engineers and scientists, work closely together, building instruments and assembling things during a time when, you know, social distancing and all the other problems that we had? so, there has been some effect to what we could get done during the pandemic but we are making steady progress and we're really doing quite well. you know, we are building... crosstalk. with respect, you are not making steady progress. jim chuckles. the only progress you are making is constantly putting the deadlines back. when do you think this artemis mission will actually land people on the moon again, because the date keeps slipping. it does keep slipping for the simple reason that we've got certain milestones that we have to accomplish that come before we actually step on the moon, and the first big
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one is coming up. it's the artemis i mission, where we launch the space launch system that will then go out, go around the moon in a figure eight pattern and return. now, that won't be crewed but, indeed, we brought it out to the pad, it's been assembled, we have found some leaks, we brought it back into the vehicle assembly building, and we're working some issues. i mean, when we do something of the size that we've never done before, we have to move it methodically and carefully, but we are making really steady progress to doing that. we'll see artemis i this year. yeah, but let's talk honesty and realism, rather than hope. donald trump, when he was still in office, he said that as far as he was concerned, us citizens had to be on the surface of mars by 2033. all the experts i've read recently say that is entirely unfeasible.
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so, are you going to be honest with me about that? i can, in the sense that i would agree with that. we won't be on the surface of mars with humans in 2033. now, you have to realise we're on the surface of mars, we've been roving around on mars, we've been doing all kinds of stuff on mars, and that's absolutely necessary before humans can go. you know, the programme is really set up that planetary scientists make the first step. they really study the environment, they really understand what resources are available, they do the science, and the analysis necessary to support human exploration to follow. we want to be able to do it safely. therefore, we don't want any surprises, and it is really through that planetary science first step that enables us to do that. do you think that you are dangerously fixated on mars — i mean, you, jim green, personally? you've spent a lot of time
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talking and writing about your conviction that mars can be, i think this is the right word, �*terraformed'? you can adapt the atmosphere around mars, you can use magnetic shields to place between mars and the sun to somehow transform mars into a place that is conceivably long—term liveable for human beings. it would cost not even hundreds of billions of dollars to make that come true — surely, trillions of dollars? inconceivable amounts of resource, time and money. what on earth is the point of going down that track? oh, it's really quite simple to understand. we have the ability to really look at the weather on mars, to understand the physical phenomena of evaporation, transport, clouds forming, to really, really get into the climate of mars. and as we do that, we also learn how to do a betterjob of developing the programmes
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for predicting climate here on earth. so, comparative planetology has been really important to us. we're in the era of climate change that everyone hears or talks about. as a planetary scientist, i can tell you the climate on earth has done nothing but change, and what we're moving into is a rapid change period. what happened to climate on mars? mars also went through a rapid climate change. it was a blue planet early on and now, it's a desert — and cold at that. and so, consequently, the concepts that i do in terms of future thinking about how we can live and work on mars are done in supercomputers, where we look at the physics and we look at what's happening, and many of those examples actually affect our understanding of our own planet. i spoke to a guy i suspect
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you know not so long ago in the us, the commentator on space science neil degrasse tyson, and he said to me, "you've got to understand "that the idea that we went to the moon because ofjust "the unquenchable curiosity of the human being is a great "notion, but we actually went to the moon because there "was a massive driver of national security, "of military interest, of cold war geopolitics — "that's why the investment was made". and if one looks to the future and where that kind of investment might be in space science, surely, it's going to be in the militarisation of the low orbit space, where russia and china are already developing technologies for satellites that can knock out other satellites, where they are trying to establish, it seems, the notion of satellite supremacy? isn't that where you and other americans are probably going to have to focus your interest from a national security point of view?
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indeed, you know, the us has national security needs. space is an integral part of that. we use space as — from a vantage point of looking down — that's always the high ground as we know it. and therefore, we're going to have to deal with these issues well into the future. did you — when donald trump developed this notion of a space force — which i noticejoe biden hasn't abandoned, the space force project continues — were you supportive of it or, as a scientist, did you feel it was somehow a perversion of what space science should be about? well, my personal opinion is that nasa's not the only organisation in the federal government that works in the space realm, 0k?
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and many different parts of the department of defense were working in that. the space force gathered those elements together to create a more coordinated set of information, understanding, analysis, and then action. for instance, we're moving into an era where there are so many launches with so much spacecraft that sometimes die in orbit, causing what we would call orbital debris, that would be of danger to working satellites, that we need to track all those, we need to know where they are, we need to even move space station to avoid space debris. and so, consequently, that group, really, is now together, and i think functioning very well. right. the militarisation of space and the notion that the united states needs to develop its capabilities there has led the us to ban
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all space cooperation with china, but it did not and has not banned space cooperation with russia. now, you've been one of nasa's leaders over the last decade, or two or three. do you acknowledge that the increased dependency of nasa on cooperation with russia, particularly in the last decade, has been a major strategic mistake? i think at this point, what we're seeing is that now we have our own servicing, our own ability to fly the space station. we're not dependent on russia to do that. we were at one time. i think we then realised... if i may say so, we had the prospect even just weeks ago of the russians leaving a us scientist in space because they were so angry about the imposition of american sanctions on russia as a result of the invasion of ukraine. the russians have told nasa that future cooperation will not happen as long
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as those sanctions remain in place. so, you guys right now are in the middle of geopolitics and your relationship with russia, to many americans, looks unacceptable. well, i think what you have to also realise is these astronauts work as a team, and it's an international team. we need a place where we can work together in a peaceful way. we have two russians on the space station right now. you know, there's no move afoot in the nasa position not to continue that relationship because they are members of the crew. they are performing important duties on the space station. they rely on the esa and nasa astronauts just as much as we rely on the russian astronauts. it's a team, and i think that's important to do.
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so when nasa bosses told astronauts like scott kelly to tone down their criticism of russia on social media, you were supportive of that, were you? i was. nasa needs to speak as one organisation and our approach is one of a peaceful means and our interaction needs to continue in that area. that's how we're going to, i think, work through some of the more thorny problems as we get to the moon. all right. notjust us, but the russians and the chinese and many others. if we can establish that space is for peace and continue in that way and demonstrate that, i think that's important. those are fine words. whether they can be realistic in the geopolitical world that we see right now is another matter. and it's notjust about state actors, is it?
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it's also about privateers. it's about the billionaires like elon musk and jeff bezos, who are determined to play a huge role in space exploration, and nasa's invited them in as partners. do you think that was wise? well, nasa's not only invited them in, we welcome them in open arms because, you know, 15 years ago, we started that whole concept of, of doing more commercial activities — you know, we funded them as start—ups. of course, we want them to come in and be part of this grand move as we use space in new and creative ways. you know, there's many commercial aspects. hang on. what's new and creative about it when you've got individuals paying roughly $55 million each to get a ride on this axiom mission into low orbit?
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what is being achieved scientifically? nothing at all. you'rejust making space the domain of the super rich. you know, this conversation perhaps is much like what happened in the �*30s when lindbergh crossed the atlantic. you know, there were many people that said, "why do "we want to cross the atlantic? "in 36 hours, i can take a boat and, you know, "in a week be in europe." we have to recognise that space provides a new realm of thinking and operating. i would much rather launch from new york and land in tokyo in 50 minutes, and it's because one orbit around the earth is 90 minutes long, period. so you have to recognise what's happening is the start of, i think, a commercialising access to space in a way that will provide a new dimension in the way we travel, the way we think, and the way
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we will work together as a world. right. but we, jim, have been talking about nasa's clarity of purpose and mission going forward. and it's going to get confused, isn't it, when the privateers — and these guys are super wealthy and super powerful — they start believing that they should have a say in how nasa does things. for example, we've got jeff bezos, who's taken legal action against nasa because he felt he was frozen out of the of the competition to deliver the landing gear for the artemis moon landings. and elon musk got the go—ahead and notjeff bezos and he's going to court. this is going to make nasa's future extraordinarily complicated and difficult. it does, but it's always been that way, which you haven't recognised as every time we put out a request for a proposal, obtain those, make a selection, many times we'll have protests. many times we'll have to go to court and resolve those.
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that does happen. it's not unique, but that's the environment we're in. it's about competition. it's about getting the best value for our dollar. and that's the method that we've developed to do that. before we end, and i don't want this to be a depressing end to our interview, but i do want to consider some of the extreme threats to our beautiful blue planet that you've spent a lot of time looking at. sure. in particular, i'm interested in your work on what are called solar flares and the extraordinary electromagnetic implications that these flares from coming from the sun have. is it true to say that a solar flare could happen at any point and could bring down the earth's entire electronic infrastructure? yes, indeed. we're recognising that we haven't seen the most intense sun in the space age that we could have.
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we've gone back in the past and recognised there's been enormous coronal mass ejections where huge pieces of the upper atmosphere of the sun have been blown off, hitting the earth in such a way that causes huge auroras. and the auroras go through canada, through the united states, through mexico, through central america. and if you were in colombia, you looked up and saw a beautiful red aurora. what's happening is these huge currents are arising in the ionosphere, producing additional currents in our power grid that cannot possibly keep them going. and therefore, they burn up transformers and you lose them. we don't have a few hours to turn everything off before it got blown out by such a solarflare, right? well, we're developing the processes now such that many companies are taking the alert system that the us is producing.
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the noaa, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, is responsible for space weather alerts. and so we do that fundamental research and noaa does the alert systems. so more companies are coming around to the idea. i mean, even airlines are using the noaa alert system so they don't fly over the poles where there's a lot of radiation going on. they'll take a lower latitude route. a final, final thought. you left your chief scientistjob at nasa before it was confirmed that there is indeed any form of life beyond our own planet. now, i don't want to be miserable about you and your fate, but do you believe confirmation of that life beyond us is going to come before you are no longer living and breathing on planet earth? i do. we're making enormous progress. i mean, you have to realise in the a0 years i've seen
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in the space industry, we didn't understand super storms. now we do. we didn't understand much about dark energy, dark matter. now we do and we're on it. and we also didn't recognise that there are planets around other stars. we didn't think we could even measure them and see them. now, we know there are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, and many of them are in places much like the earth, where we receive the light from the sun and we can have water in not only liquid form, frozen form, a vapour form. those are important conditions, we believe, for life. and we're finding planets that are, have conditions where life may arise. now, with webb, our next big telescope, james webb space telescope, we're going to start teasing out what some of these planets look like from their atmospheres. now, we're going to compare those atmospheres to the ones we know.
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are they more venus—like? are they more mars—like? are they more earth—like? this is a huge step forward. so i think we're going to see some really astounding discoveries in the next handful of years. jim green, ifeel like our conversation is only really just starting rather than ending, but sadly we're totally out of time. so for now, thank you very much for being on hardtalk. stephen, thank you very much. hello, there. there is a bit more rainfall in the forecast for this upcoming week.
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most of it's across the north and the west of the country, very little affecting the south and the east, and it will be quite breezy over the next few days, as low pressure will stick close by — in fact, quite windy at times across northern and western scotland. it's all down to this area of low pressure, sitting to the north of the uk. plenty of isobars on the charts, so that's why it'll be windy, and there'll be lots of showers packing into northern and western areas pretty much from the word "go" on tuesday. the overnight weather front through central parts of england will be pushing across east anglia and the south—east, barely anything on it as it moves its way eastwards. eventually, it'll clear away, and then it's a bright day, plenty of sunshine around, but scattered showers pretty much anywhere, most of them in the north and the west, where some of them could be heavy, with some rumbles of thunder. these are the mean wind speeds — it's going to be a fairly gusty day across the board, but very windy across the north—west of scotland, and temperatures will range from around the mid—to—high teens for many, we could see 20 celsius across the south—east. so pollen levels, again, will be quite high, especially across the south east, where it will be driest.
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but further north, it should be a little bit lower than what we've had the last few days. now, as we head through tuesday night, we'll hold onto the showers across northern and western areas. they will continue to be blustery, and some of them merging together to produce longer spells of rain. a new weather front will start to push into the south—west of england and wales by the end of the night. this promises to bring some more persistent rain across southern areas, although, again, it'll be a fairly mild night. so we'll have low pressure to the north of the uk, with scattered showers here. this weather front will be bringing outbreaks of rain to parts of england and wales. so we start wednesday off on quite a wet note for southwest england and wales — this rain pushing into the midlands, and then, across into eastern england, and some of it will be pretty good rainfall for the gardens. however, it could be, again, the south—east of england escapes and stays rather dry, so we'lljust have to wait and see, a bit closer to the time. but further north, there'll be sunshine and showers, and those temperatures range from around 14—18 celsius. that weather front clears away, a bit more rain across the north of the uk to end the week, and then, into the weekend, a new area of high pressure starts to build in, and that'll start
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to draw up some warm air from the south. so, in the short term, we'll continue with the strong winds and further outbreaks of rain. by the end of the week, into the weekend, it'll start to turn very warm — in fact, the mid—20s celsius in one or two places by the time we reach sunday.
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this is bbc news. i'm ben boulos with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. the queen will miss one of her most important ceremonial duties, the state opening of parliament, for the first time in nearly 60 years. it's on the advice of her doctors. is ferdinand marcoer, the son of a former dictator, heading for a landslide win in the philippines presidential election? france's president macron suggests a new �*european political community', in light of the ukraine crisis. and sri lanka's prime minister mahinda rajapaksa resigns after mass protests at the government's handling of a country in crisis.

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