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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  July 8, 2020 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the president of brazil has tested positive for coronavirus. jair bolsonaro insists his symptoms are mild and says he's feeling fine. in a country with the world's second highest number of virus cases and deaths, he's long played down the danger, claiming covid—19 is like a little flu. the trump administration has formally notified the united nations it is withdrawing the us from the world health organisation, on the 6th ofjuly next year. melbourne in australia is back in lockdown for six weeks because of a spike in covid infections. police are stopping drivers from crossing the border between victoria and new south wales at the high court in london, the hollywood actorjohnny depp is suing the sun newspaper for calling him a wife beater. he denies the allegation that he "regularly engaged in destructive and violent behaviour" in relation to his former wife amber heard.
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it is liz30am. now on bbc news — hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. the impulse to explore has taken human beings into space and to the remotest corners of our own planet. my guest today has experienced both. kathy sullivan was the first american woman to walk in space and she has just returned from a journey to the bottom of the deepest ocean floor. she is first and foremost a scientist. right now as we try to navigate our future, are we humans respecting the science?
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kathy sullivan in columbus, ohio, welcome to hardtalk. thanks, great to be with you. you, i think, can be described as a scientist, an explorer, but i'm wondering what comes first for you? is it the science or is the adrenaline—filled adventure? i would say it's the exploration. i've never really been all that much of an adrenaline junkie but exploring has always intrigued me from my youngest days, watching mercury astronauts and jacques cousteau and reading about all the people in national geographic, i just thought the opportunity to go to exotic place and learn all sorts of things like that fascinated me and i wanted something like that in my life. what fascinates me about that is you don't feel adrenaline is really your thing because you would yourself in circumstances far above the earth and right at the bottom of the earth where, frankly, you are in life—or—death situations. surely adrenaline has to be part of it. i don't do those things
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for the rush of the adrenaline. i do them for where they go and what they let me learn, sometimes the challenge — can i fly an aeroplane well? but it's not about i want to feel all the adrenaline in my body coursing through my veins, that has never been the draw for me. i guess what strikes me is you are a woman who's pushed against frontiers and of course that's in the most literal, physical sense, frontiers in space and far below the sea and we will talk about both, but there is also a different kind of frontier. you were one of the first women to be involved in the space programme, to be an astronaut within the organisation. did you feel at the time, in the 1970s, that you were pushing against barrier, that you were breaking that famous glass ceiling? i think all six of us who joined in 1978 realised this was a notable step forward, it was a big change, it was a piercing of what had been a barrier since the start
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of the united states astronaut programme. i think we felt that rather keenly, i think we recognised maybe a bit dimly, some of us were straight out of grad school, but we recognised we had both the opportunity and sense of obligation to really step up a do a really good job. if we'd gotten the door ajar and managed to squeak through, we wanted the door opened wider behind us. how bad was the sexism and misogyny you had to face in nasa at that time in the late ‘70s and ‘80s? honestly, it was not that terrible. that may in part have been because we did not come in as the mostjunior people and new rookie junior people often get a dose of teasing and hazing in many organisations but we walked in with about the highest prestige and status that nasa can bestow, the title of astronaut,
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and i think maybe to some degree, that caused people to stop a bit and say, you know, i know how i always treated astronauts, even though i've never seen one that looked like these six, but you get maybe a bit of a window of time to prove yourself and of course, before very long, you are standing on your own track record as everybody has to do. you've written very frankly about your feelings during this period and it seems you were perhaps more frustrated by some of the attitudes on the outside world than you were attitudes inside nasa. you wrote that pretty quickly you realised, "i wasn't going to be the one who everybody was chasing," you were talking about the media scrutiny, "because there were four women who outwardly looked more obviously like good stories that the media wanted to chase. " what did you mean by that? i think there are sort of archetypes of beauty or good looks in any society, i looked myself and my five other colleagues and reckoned several of them just sort
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of fit more what i had seen as the stereotype on magazine covers and so forth than i reckon i did, so to a degree, to the degree that image and fitting a certain stereotype would appeal to people making the decision about who flies first, i thought that might actually give them an edge. i didn't ink that would ever, in any way, outrank confidence and judgement in our ability to perform, but i figured it would public coloured the decision and if indeed it did, i reckon it would put me at a bit of a disadvantage. i've never been the cover girl type. i'm fascinated to know if with the distance of time it fundamentally did affect the way those six women's careers progressed. there is really no way of telling because all the decisions having to do with what we were assigned to do and what tasks we were given were very opaque. they were never really laid out or explained. so what factors went in or did not into those decisions, i have no clue, but i look back now
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with the distance of time at the pathway that opened up before me and all my other colleagues, shannon and anna and rae, and again, i can't imagine any of us having complaints and our class racked up the first female to fly in space for the united states, the first to do a space walk, the first to be awarded the space congressional medal of honour so maybe that actor played a role one way or another now or then but we all had a very good ride, very good run and were able to make really meaningful contributions to the technical side of the us space programme as well as i would like to think the cultural side of opening the door wider for women to come along behind us. and in terms of achievement, you had one extraordinary historic achievement to your name that will never be taken away from you. you were the first american woman to conduct a space walk. i am just wondering how galling it was for you, not to put a negative spin on it but the fact is the americans wanted you to be the first woman to make a spacewalk but you are pipped to the post by a russian. wasn't that galling?
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oh, i think...not particularly, we quite expected it. when the press release came out announcing my first flight, it included the fact that sally ride would fly on the same mission — that would make her the first woman to fly twice. and sally and i reading that press release, and having the pats on the backs from our colleagues in houston, we just looked at each other and said, "they‘ re not paying attention, this press release is already in moscow, svetlana savitskaya is going to get a second flight and another will get to do a space walk and they have months to fit that in before we are slated to fly," and sure enough, that's just what happened. so we always teased that svetlana owed us her second flight and her spacewalk. and the second flight, when astronauts come back to earth, they often talk about what a humbling experience it was, how it gave them a new insight into
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how fragile and tiny our planet is in the great vastness of the universe. was all that in your mind or was it very prosaic aboutjust doing the mission, getting through it, surviving and doing it as your bosses at nasa wanted? you are performing well getting the mission done and coming back home have got to be top of mind and what you are really focusing your attention on. that's why you are there. you are not there for touristing, but having said that, our schedules always had enough nooks and crannies and enough moments maybe before you go to bed but if you wake up a bit during your sleep period, where you could take in where you were and the spectacular sight of the earth. you just had to be stunned and sort of recalibrated by that. how both fragile and elegant and yet at the same time immense and powerful the planet is, and that duality really struck me, the systems on our planet, big storms, hurricanes, are hugely powerful and yet at the same time
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you would see elegant signs like little tendrils of dust coming off the sahara that would remind you of how finely balanced and how elegant the planet is as well. it's pretty amazing to fly at 17,500 miles an hour from the day—lit side of the earth across the terminator onto the night—time side of the earth and look down at the dark earth below you and see sunshine still shining on your spacecraft and realise there could be a little kid down there on the earth right now looking up at the sky and pointing up and saying to their mum or dad, "look, mummy, there goes a satellite," and that look kid is pointing to you. those are mind bending and wonderful moments. we're talking about the 1980s. i believe your last mission was 1990. it's a long time ago, and do you fear that nasa, that is, the federal space operation, its commitment, its mission as lost momentum, sort of lost its way
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in the last two or three decades. i think nasa has struggled and the united states has struggled to really seize on and target the right scale of bold objective for nasa and then stick with it long enough to really attain it. i think it will turn out in the long run to be a good thing that nasa has been able to turn over the ferrying of cargo and people from the surface of the earth to low earth orbit, turn that over to private sector players. i have confidence now that is heading in the right direction with some real momentum and that does let nasa focus on broader goals, bolder goals, whether that's the outer planets or mars or the moon. the trick of course is to be able to get beyond the glossy press release and the cool announcement and the powerpoint drawings of what it all will look like and actually do the doing of it and that takes time, firm commitment, the kind of commitment
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that will get you through the setbacks that are inevitably going to happen. if i'm concerned about anything, it's more about the political stability and political will of our country that can give nasa a charge and really hold to that charge until we achieve it. i just wonder if you feel that in some ways, there has been too much of an obsession with putting humans into space because in some ways, i think you've given in your writing about your career a sense that your greatest achievement was your involvement in putting the hubble space telescope into position and it's given us this extraordinary window into the universe which is given us unparalleled knowledge about the way the universe works but maybe there should be more of a focus on that and less of a focus, still to this day, people talking about putting men back on the moon, and men on mars. maybe that is of a lesser secondary importance. what do you think?
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i think deciding what that balance is as a critical decision. i reject the dichotomy of it, it's either/or, one is right, run is wrong. i think explanation calls for both/and. if you know what you are after, we certainly can develop automated systems that know just what you know to ask and direct and design that system to deliver. but there are so many unknowns still, including unknowns about how the human body works and the opportunity to examine that both in microgravity and reduced gravity. there arejust huge frontiers out there. isn't it daunting and maybe even depressing? now that we know, thanks to hubble in part, just how ferociously massive the universe is and how it's expanding and how we now know so much more about galaxies, far beyond our own. we have a sense of the vastness and the distance which means that
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even in galaxies far beyond ours, we find the conditions perhaps for planets a little bit like our own where there might be life forms, we are never, ever, ever, in any imaginable future, going to be able to reach those places. all we can actually reach in bodily form are dead chunks of rock that aren't going to yield very much. there are a number of presumptions in the way you've put that question that i would reject. i'm not a proponent of the lifeboat theory of we should send people to the moon and mars because we're going to have to abandon this planet eventually after we've spoiled it. i think that's an immoral and unethical posture. i look at it at a little different way, i guess. i look back at apollo, for example, and one can be dismissive of apollo, say, "12 guys walked on the moon, they left bootprints, they brought back rocks, so what?" i look at apollo and i see something else. i see a catalyst to advance science and technology across a wider front
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than any other goal i can imagine would have done and that bled over and fed into medicine, telemedicine, digital computing, advanced materials, so the cascade of benefits that earthlings received and that are now embedded and woven into the fabric of our lives, the cascade of benefits that came out of apollo happened because the goal was so demanding and so audacious and we stuck with it and got it done and that, to me, is really the underlying fundamental value of setting a bold national goal and sticking to it. i mean, few people think of apollo this way but it's true to point out apollo marks the moment in the history of computing when people stopped bragging about how large their computers were and started to brag about how small they were and the reason was you needed more computing power with some higher speed in a small and highly reliable package than any other goal had everforced humankind to develop and those advances in semiconductors and manufacturing and scaling set the stage for the digital computing revolution that we've all lived with and now enjoy in our everyday life.
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if it took years and you were a little bit younger and there was the opportunity for you, as an astronaut, to take part in a mission to mars or even beyond, which would take years, potentially, you would sign up, would you? i would. i am a geologist and volcanologist by my original training and i would love to see the chasms and the volcanoes of mars, so i'm holding out to get the john glenn deal
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and when i'm about ten years old, i get another ride! laughter we would certainly want to get you back on the show for that! but, in the meantime, here's a thought — you mentioned apollo, and that probably was the absolute pinnacle of us space achievement, getting those men on the moon in 1969, and that's a long time ago, and one could argue the reason that the reason that kennedy and successive administrations committed that was because they were locked in a cold war with the soviet union and space appeared to be the new frontier for that hostility. perhaps, right now, investment from governments in space may be ramped up because of a new phase of nationalistic, possibly sort of militaristic perception of what space means for nation states. do you embrace the new investment or worry about the militarisation? a bit of both, i have to say.
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it's unequivocal that space nowadays and in probably the decades ahead, it's going to be characterised by three features: it's going to be more congested, it's going to be more contested, and the actors will be increasingly commercial. all of that is going to add a lot of complexity, legal and technical and other complexity to everybody‘s business in space. if i may interrupt, kathy, when your president, donald trump, described space as the world's newest war fighting domain, when he creates what he calls the new space force, which, he says, will control the ultimate high ground, do you, as a very senior former federal official, do you worry about what your president is saying? i look at those words against the backdrop of what i know is already happening in space and another of number of other actors in space, national actors, and i would kind of say that horse is out of the barn. 0ur president's recent labellings, not withstanding, as i said, space is a highly
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and hotly contested arena now with all sorts of offensive jabbings at each other already gone on, and long going on, and not at alljust by the united states. you, for a number of years, were the chief of america's oceanic and atmospheric agency. you were very much involved in the american debate about what to do about scientific evidence pointing to significant and serious climate change. you ran into trouble with republicans on the senate, who accused you of doctoring some information, of trying to pursue a political agenda because you were supportive of barack 0bama. given your experience, do you fear there is a real problem with america and following the science on climate change? i do. we seem to be in quite a phase of quite intense anti—intellectualism, antiscience. i grew up and started cutting my teeth in the national policy arena in an era when scientists
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and technologists like myself were attacked and appointed by presidents of both parties because there was a widespread and shared confidence that the data are the data, the science are the science. you want the best scientists and engineers bringing you the best insights that science and engineering can provide. those will never fully answer policy questions, they will never fully tell you what to do. policy makers and elected officials have to go beyond that. but we have moved now, u nfortu nately, and it worries me greatly, to an era where, since i served under president barack 0bama, i served under more republican presidents than democratic presidents, by the way, but in our current political climate in the united states, the fact that i most recently served under president 0bama will mean that a whole slew of other elected officials would never touch me for an appointment and probably doubt anything i said, even if it was two plus two is four! that is a recipe
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for grave harm and disaster in a highly technological society in our advanced world, but, sadly, it seems to be where we are. and continuing with the theme of what human beings are currently doing to the planet, just a short time ago, you went on the most extraordinary journey in a submersible vehicle, right to the bottom of the earth, i think some 38,000 feet, roughly 11 kilometres down to the challenger deep, the deepest part of the mariana trench, in the pacific ocean. one thing i believe you are trying to do, or at least the whole project was trying to do, is figure out the degree to which human pollution has reached the very deepest, deepest parts of the oceans, can you give me some sense of the conclusions? sure. as you said, one of many objectives, so little is known about these super—deep areas of the ocean, below 6,000 metres, so we were looking at
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the topography, we were working to get samples and look at the organisms. i can tell you a couple of findings from the the broader sweep of the expedition that victor vescovo‘s been running last year and this year. in some of the very small critters that live in these deepest places, including in the mariana trench, little guys called amphipods, look rather like the pill bugs you might find in your garden, they have found in the innards of a number of organisms, traces of micro plastics that are above the background level, which means some of the plastics produced in our industrial societies are making it all the way down through the ocean to even those deepest depths. in a couple of places, one or two places, physical items of trash, of litter were found. last year, something that looked pretty convincingly like a plastic bag was found on the bottom of the mariana trench, and in the most recent series of dives in the past week, a fizzy soda can was seen on the bottom, on the trench floor.
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and, finally, in something sort of akin to the debris left on mount everest by climbers, there have been coils of fibre—optic cable found on the bottom of the mariana trench as well, and those apparently are left over from robotic scientific vehicles that send their data to the surface through these very fine fibre—optic tethers, which, when they become 11 and 12 and 13 kilometres long, often times are cut loose and jettisoned rather than trying to haul them back in. i cannot imagine anything more depressing than learning that there is human detritus at those very deepest levels of the ocean. i'm just wondering, as a final thought, where do you believe human beings should put their priorities right now? because we live in a world, clearly, a world where resources are very finite and they have to be rationed. should we be focusing most of our efforts on doing what it takes, spending what it takes, to clean up our planet, our oceans, decarbonise, do everything necessary to give us a sustainable future here on earth
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or do you believe we should be pouring very significant resources into that effort that we've discussed, to get human beings further and deeper into space? it's a question of priorities, and where should they be? it's also a question of scale because thinking of nasa's investments, nasa is five—tenths of a penny in us tax dollars, so, you could wipe out all of nasa and you'd scarcely be making a meaningful change to the scale of investment on sustainability or environmental protection so, again, i don't think it has to be either—or. i do think the priorities, certainly my priority as a citizen and scientist is learning how to live more wisely and well on this planet in a sustainable way with a lighter footprint. there are plenty of ways we could move forward on that front. we just have to get at it. kathy sullivan, thank you so much forjoining me on hardtalk. i look forward to talking
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to you in ten years‘ time as you prepare for that mars mission! i will look forward to that as well. hello. well, we've got another dose of rain on the way for wednesday. it's more southern parts of the uk that will get the rain. now, this is the satellite picture. notice it's actually a conveyor belt of cloud that's stretching from the north sea across the uk, ireland and out into the atlantic, and out here in the central north atlantic, not that it's of any huge significance, but this is actually an old tropical storm that's just feeding in warmth and moisture
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into this band of cloud and rain that's gradually slipping across the country from west to east. there is also a lot of mild air to the south, in fact, 15 degrees, that is the early morning temperature on wednesday, whereas in the glens of scotland early on wednesday, it could be close to freezing in a few areas. so remember that cloud stretching out into the atlantic, it is kind of spreading across the uk, certainly some rain around at times for wales, the midlands, southern england, eventually into east anglia and the south—east. but i think much of yorkshire, northern ireland and scotland in for a bright day with just a few showers. that trend continues into thursday. it's more southern parts of the country that get the cloud and the outbreaks of rain, so i think for some of us, once again, not a pretty picture, but it's not going to be cold. 20 degrees in london, actually fresher in scotland with the sunshine, where temperatures will be between 1a and 18 degrees celsius. on friday, there is a weather front out in the north sea. it's actually a low pressure, with its weather fronts, and it will be close enough to drive our weather.
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so i think showers for the north—east of england, certainly through yorkshire and into east anglia, and a bit of a breeze as well. the winds actually coming out of the north—west on friday, so it could feel a little on the chilly side in some north—western areas. the best of the weather, i suspect, across western wales and the south, as well as the south—west, on friday. now, here's the good news. high pressure is expected to build towards the weekend. not particularly hot weather heading our way with this high pressure. i think it's just going to be pleasantly warm with some sunny spells. so here's the outlook for saturday and sunday. temperatures mostly in the high teens across more northern parts of the country, whereas further south, it will probably get up to around the low or maybe the mid—20s. that's it. bye— bye.
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hello. you are with bbc news. we have the latest headlines for you in the uk and around the world. i'm sally bundock. millions in melbourne are ordered back into lockdown for six weeks. there are police checks at the state border between victoria and new south wales. angry crowds in serbia have stormed the parliament building in response to the announcement of a weekend curfew because of the virus. the world health organization says it can't rule out that covid—19 can be spread by tiny particles suspended in the air. brazil's president has tested positive for coronavirus. but he's not the only high profile leader to contract covid—19.


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