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A Big Decision for NASA This Morning; Silence to Honor 52 People Killed, Hundreds Injured in London Bombing a Week Ago

Aired July 14, 2005 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien. In London now, the sound of silence.
And welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. Silence to honor the 52 people who were killed and the hundreds injured in the London bombing a week ago today.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miles O'Brien live at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A big decision for NASA this morning, whether to take the Shuttle Discovery off the launch pad, back to the hangar for some repairs. The first liftoff scrubbed yesterday afternoon. We'll tell you exactly what happened, and we'll tell you about some very real concerns that this could delay this mission into September.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, a developing story to tell you about. It's now Hurricane Emily, a category-one hurricane, packing 90-mile-an-hour winds, and it's barreling toward the Caribbean, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. We're going to get right back to Miles in just a few moments. First, though, let's get right back to London. As you saw just a moment ago, a moment to honor the dead from last week's terrorist bombings, the sounds of silence. Two minutes to honor the dead and wounded. That happening all around Great Britain in the locations of some of those bombings, all around London, the Big Ben location, as well, Tavistock Square, King's Cross Station, Aldgate Station, Edgware Station, Buckingham Palace, we saw pictures of the queen, and Downing street as well. You've seen the CNN cameras around England today as people everywhere pause for a moment to remember those who were killed and injured.

Through it all, Londoners determined to go on with their lives, not to give in to fear. We've got some developments to tell you about in the investigation this morning, and we start with that. Police are learning a lot, they say, by combing through the hours and hours of videotape from train stations. Much more on what they're finding is just ahead -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad, there is a beautiful sight on the launch pad behind me three-and-a-half miles away, as the sun shines on the Space Shuttle Discovery, lighting up that orange external tank, beautiful whispy clouds here in Florida. But I suspect for NASA managers, the only sight that would be better would be an empty launch pad, and this mission now should be about 15 hours old. Of course that didn't happen yesterday. About 1:30 in the afternoon, in the midst of that countdown, routine tests, what happened was engineers saw a stuck valve. This is a valve that tells essentially that the fuel is running out in that big orange external fuel tank, and that valve was stuck, and you cannot fly to space with it not working.

Let's take a look at animation and give you a sense of where it is and why it's a big problem, as we zoom in on our shuttle right now. What we're talking about is at the base of that big orange external fuel tank, and right down here is an engine-cutoff valve. There's actually a total of four of them, four at each end of the tank, one for the liquid hydrogen side, one for the liquid hydrogen side. If any one of those particular sensors fail, it's what they call a launch commit criteria violation. That's a way of saying we're not going to fly if this thing doesn't work.

What could happen, there are two scenarios. It could either shut the engines off prematurely, forcing some sort of an abort situation where they have to come back to the launch pad here, or perhaps go land on the other side of the Atlantic, or could cause a catastrophic failure of the engine as it runs dry. Neither of these are good scenarios, and so the launch was scrubbed. Let's listen to one of the mission managers.


WAYNE HALE, NASA SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM: Well, all I can say is shucks. We came out here all set to go today. We've been working really hard to be ready to go, and we incurred a problem. It was clearly a launch commit criteria violation. It took us about five minutes of discussion to confirm that and decide that it was time to try another day.


M. O'BRIEN: The seven-member crew of Discovery was strapping in, checking out their radios at the time of this scrub, getting ready after years and years of training for this mission, a high-profile mission, the first flight since the loss of Columbia two-and-a-half years ago. They were sent back to the astronaut crew quarters, and remained there while NASA engineers today through a series of meetings try to determine precisely how to fix this problem. It may involve possibly rolling back the space shuttle discovery to the hangar, and that could incur a rather significant delay. Little early to tell on that, but it could be a situation where this launch window that we're in, which closes on August 1st, they may not be able to meet it.

Meanwhile, just parenthetically at this point, all day long we were concerned about the weather here. Thunderstorms came through. We actually had to evacuate our position for a little while, Soledad.

This is a picture right at the time they would have launched, 3:51 p.m. Eastern Time yesterday. It was near pristine conditions. So all that focus on the weather, and really what it boiled down to, Soledad, was you got to have a million parts that all work well. (WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Take a look at the sunrise here. It's such a beautiful morning here, as we continue our coverage of the non-launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. We wanted to share that with you. In a little bit, we'll hear from one of the astronauts. Obviously everybody in the astronaut corps is a little disappointed, but they are a little bit philosophical as well, because launch delays, scrubs, sort of part of the racket -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: The irony, though, of a perfect day or a perfect moment when it should have gone off. Miles, thanks. We'll check in with you of course throughout the morning.

Well, a week to the day after the terrorist bombings in London, people all over Britain are observing a day of remembrance for the victims. You just saw moments ago the nationwide moment of silence. A vigil planned for later today at London's Trafalgar Square. Meanwhile, police still searching for a man who is being described as a possible fifth suspect in the attack. Correspondent Jim Boulden is following the investigation. He's in Leeds this morning. That's about 200 miles north of London. Malika Kapur is in Trafalgar Square.

Jim, we're going to begin wit you this morning. What's the latest on the investigation?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you, Soledad, we've just had the ceremony here at the Millennium Square in Leeds break up. But as we talk about that, just down the road, there are at least five or six houses that continue to be searched. Police are continuing to go through these homes. It's a painstaking forensic investigation. They are not rushing through this, because they want to find out if there's any information about the so-called fifth man. We've just heard that the police are investigating yet another property, so there are more properties they are searching as they try to find out who the mastermind must have been, who this master bomber could have been. Could it have been a teacher at the university? Could it have somebody they met in the mosque?

Now last night also, outside of London, in a place called Aylesbury, the police raided a house there. That might be connected to Luton train station, where they did find the car from the bombers. And in that car, there was some bomb material.

But as of now, they have not found any explosives in that house in Aylesbury, and as they continued the search here, Soledad, they have not found what they've said yet any explosive material here, but we do know that three of the four bombers, at least three of the four bombers, were born and raised in this city -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: In addition to the number, the three of the four, some of the identities have been confirmed as well by CNN. What can you tell us, Jim, about these three bombers?

BOULDEN: Well, Soledad, the people here say they were normal, average everyday boys. They were boys like 22-year-old Shahzad Tanweer. He loved cricket. He love football, i.e. soccer. He was a regular lad. Now this morning, The newspapers are starting to show photos of these boys, when some of them were 10 or 11 years old at elementary school, and one of the young men, a 30-year-old named Mohammed Sadique Khan. He was married, and there's his photo of him getting married. He also had a child. He worked at a local elementary school. People here just cannot come to terms with why he and the other three would actually become suicide bombers. And as we see these photos, we're now putting faces to names. And it is actually hitting home against to the people here in Leeds, and the people here in the Millennium Square. They cannot understand how this could happen.

But we did hear from one Muslim leader this morning, and he said, Soledad, quote, "no Muslim in his right mind would do this." Indeed -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Jim, thanks. CNN, of course, confirming the identifies of three of these suspected bombers. Let's get to Malika Kapur. She's in Trafalgar Square this morning. A second vigil is going to held there later today.

Malika, give us a sense then of the mood where you are.

MALIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, as you saw just a few moments ago, London came to a complete halt. Now as you know, London did come to a grinding halt exactly one week ago when the bomb blasts took place, and today the city came to a halt to honor those who lost their lives in that attack, and to honor the 700 people who have been injured. There were easily 5,000 people in Trafalgar Square, where I am right now. In the last 15 minutes before 12:00 when we did observe the two-minute silence, people just started streaming down here by the hundreds. At least 5,000 people here, and the two minutes of silence was led by the mayor of London, who took the stage right behind me. The mayor of London was here. The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was here.

And there were people from all walks of life, all the various different faces. We've seen Muslim people here, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs a whole range of people here.

I spoke with some of the people, and they all had the same message. They all said we've come here just to express our solidarity with the rest of London. I also spoke to some people who were visiting London. I spoke to a couple who were on holiday. They're here from Spain. And they said, well, we're from Spain, so we know what London is going through because of the bomb attacks in Madrid last year. And they made it a point to take a couple minutes out of their holiday to come here to express the solidarity with the rest of London. It was a very somber mood. Traffic around me came to a halt. You can hear the traffic and ambulance sirens behind me, but for the two minutes the busses stopped, taxis stopped and people stopped in commemoration of those that lost their lives.

S. O'BRIEN: It was a pretty remarkable moment of silence. Malika Kapur for us, thanks for the update on that. In other news, Chief Justice William Rehnquist hospitalized under observation this morning. Rehnquist was admitted after complaining of a fever on Tuesday night. Let's get right to Kathleen Koch. She's live at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia, which is right outside of Washington D.C.

Kathleen, good morning to you. What's the very latest on his condition?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Soledad, we have no word that his condition has changed. We also have no word on whether or not he is going to be remaining hospitalized here for a second day.

As you mentioned, it was Tuesday night that ailing 80-year-old Supreme Court chief Justice was brought here by ambulance, to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, complaining of a fever. As most of America knows, he is being treated right now for thyroid cancer, has been under treatment since October. He underwent a tracheotomy at that time. He was away from the bench for a total of roughly five months, and has undergone both radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and doctors say it's not unusual for a patient with cancer, who is suffering from a fever to be hospitalized. A Supreme Court spokeswoman, though, so far saying very little, only that he was admitted for tests and observation. And indeed the court has been very tight lipped about the chief justice's medical condition.

And we only learned about his hospitalization yesterday when cameras caught Supreme -- not only the justice not leaving his home as he normally does in the morning, but the Supreme Court police officers carrying a shirt, shoes, the justice's cane out of his home, and that was when they did finally reveal that he had been hospitalized.

S. O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch following his condition for us.

Kathleen, obviously, we all are anxiously awaiting word on how he's doing. Thanks.

Still to come this morning, a shocking crime. A 15-year-old boy killed in a fight over an iPod. His grieving parents talk about their loss and their hope as well.

Also, Senator Joseph Biden is going to join us live. He's not only a senator. He commutes by train, too. We'll tell you about his plan to make all our commutes safer -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad, I'll talk with a veteran astronaut who's logged more than 500 hours in space. How does she think this delay in Discovery's mission will affect the crew and program for that matter. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: NASA's long-awaited return to space will have to wait until Saturday at earliest, maybe much later. The Discovery launch Wednesday scrubbed because of a faulty fuel gauge. Astronaut Cady Coleman is a veteran of two shuttle missions, and we should tell you 10 scrubs, 10 scrubs.

Cady, good morning.

CADY COLEMAN, ASTRONAUT: You know a little bit about scrubs, don't you?

COLEMAN: I do. But you know, I actually misspoke, in that 10 launch attempts is a more accurate way.

M. O'BRIEN: There is a technical term here.

COLEMAN: So eight and two. It's true. It was hurricane season. You know, you look at the map. You see them coming. There was times for us (INAUDIBLE), we didn't even start the launch countdown.

M. O'BRIEN: I can imagine as psyched as you are when strapped into a space shuttle, to say, come on, get off, let's go back to the crew quarters, it's got to be such a letdown.

COLEMAN: You are so disappointed. And at the same time, it is your family and friends that will be calling you on the phone and sharing their pain of, you know, changing plane tickets and hotels and all those kinds of things. But you know, you're going to get to go. Everybody feels bad for the crew, but they're going to get to go when the time is right, and they'll be ready.

M. O'BRIEN: There was this great picture yesterday, the crew down at the base of the pad, right, where the end of the structure is, and they're talking and then they were actually taking pictures. It was almost like there was a festive mood down there. I doubt it was festive, but they wanted to mark the moment I guess.

COLEMAN: Well, you know, they're going to be on their way to space; it's a question of when.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. The when question is a big question for all of us this morning. Lots of meetings ahead and, you know, obviously a lot needs to be worked out. But this best-case scenario assumes that they'll be able to fix this sensor on the launch pad. Is that likely?

COLEMAN: It depends what the problem is. You know, if the problem is fixable and accessible easily on the launch pad, I'm hoping that they can get it -- you know, get the launch countdown started and we'll, you know, have an attempt on Saturday. It just depends. And I think they just don't know. It actually takes a while to then drain the tank and clear out, you know, any fuel and make sure it's safe. And I think this afternoon is the earliest they're get in there.

M. O'BRIEN: This problem cropped up another test attached to Discovery in April during a tanking test. They swapped out tanks. There were some other reasons for that, didn't run another test after that. Maybe they should have?

COLEMAN: It's pretty easy to Monday morning quarterback, and at the same time, I think they felt good about the diagnose they were making at the time. You know, that is a similar problem, not exactly the same problem, and those -- that equipment was completely changed out on a unit that had been thoroughly tested. We can't know anything. We can only do our best, and we fly when it's safe.

M. O'BRIEN: So at this point, do you think that system is working here? That's a big question here in the wake of Columbia?

COLEMAN: I do. I do. People are dismayed about the slip, and I don't want to go unless things are ready. We've got a lot of ways to figure that out. It was a clear call yesterday. We had indications that we didn't have everything we needed to launch. We need the gas gauge.

M. O'BRIEN: Gas gauge is a good thing, because what happens in this case, either it shuts down the engines prematurely, and you're landing at an emergency landing field in Spain perhaps, or worse, it runs dry, and that can be, like, even a catastrophic failure, right?

COLEMAN: Right. It's actually a very clever system in that there are four sensors, and it takes two to either shut down the engine or keep it running. And so we've really bought ourselves a lot of insurance, and that's why we want to make sure we launch with all our redundancy.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, and so generally speaking, I know you haven't talked to the crew, today what do you think is going through their minds?

COLEMAN: You know, they're getting some rest. I will tell you that it's a tough, you know, march down to the -- up to the launch pad and, you know, the crew is probably tired. It's just the -- I think the adrenaline of strapping in, being ready, trying to make sure you are exactly on your game and ready to go to space and that it doesn't happen. They're tired. And plus, they were on their backs probably, you know, a while, and that's a tiring thing as well. So hopefully they're getting some rest today. They're disappointed, and yet, as I said, they get to go to space. It's just a question of when.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Cady Coleman, thanks for dropping by. Appreciate it -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, the nominees for primetime Emmys are going to be announced this morning. How will "Desperate Housewives" do? We'll take a look at the early favorites, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Another CEO is going to the slammer. Let's get right to Andy Serwer. He's "Minding Your Business" this morning. Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

This is the toughest sentence yet for a perpetrator of corporate fraud. We're talking about Bernie Ebbers of course. Yesterday in court in Manhattan, Judge Barbara Jones sentenced Ebbers, who's 63 years old, to 25 years in jail, and she basically called it a life sentence, saying it was likely to be a life sentence. He will be eligible for parole when he's 85 years old. So you can see it's quite a significant amount of time.

S. O'BRIEN: She could have given him all 85 years.

SERWER: Right. She could have. So actually it was a little -- quite a break I guess, in the sense. He'll be doing his term likely in Yazoo City, Mississippi, which is near his home. He was crying during the sentencing, which I guess is understandable. "The New York Daily News" had a rather cutting headline here, "Billion-Dollar Baby," showing his eyes there.

S. O'BRIEN: Kind of harsh.

SERWER: Yes, kind of harsh. Ebbers not a technologist, Soledad. He built this company with drive and ambition, and it really is sort of sad that he squandered such leadership qualities, cutting corners and really cheating. And it's a really sad state of affairs in that sense.

How does Ebbers' sentence stack up versus some of these other corporates that we've been covering the past couple years. It actually makes sense here. Justice is served. Ebbers gets 25 years. So he'd be at the top of the list, the biggest fraud in the nation's history. He's number one. Olis is kind of a surprise there. He was just a low-level employee, and you can see, these are all familiar names, Fastow, the chief financial officer of Enron, Sam Waksal, at the heart of the Imclone scandal, Frank Quattrone, and then Martha Stewart, with all attention paid, she gets the lightest sentence for what was really the smallest crime. So I think it's sort of all makes sense as we're starting to see these sentences come down.

S. O'BRIEN: The scales of justice sort of balanced you say.

SERWER: I think that's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, I'm going to talk live with Senator Joe Biden. He's got a plan for protecting the nation's transit system. But what does it cost? And could it work? That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.



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