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Charleston Mourns Firefighters Lost in Line of Duty; Duke Lacrosse Players File Motion For Sanctions Against District Attorney; "Atlantis" Lands at Edwards Air Force Base

Aired June 22, 2007 - 15:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

KEILAR: And just coming in to the CNN NEWSROOM right now, we want to update you on that infant, that baby, that was dropped off on the doorstep of a resident in Ohio just days after Jessie Davis, that woman in Ohio, went missing.

This just in from the Wayne County sheriff, reporting that the baby has no relation to Jessie Davis. This is not Jessie Davis' baby. Apparently, an adult female from Wayne County has confessed that she left the newborn infant on this doorstep shortly after giving birth -- so, again, not related to Jessie Davis, who, again, is that woman who was about nine months pregnant when she went missing June 13.

At this point, police have searched the home of her boyfriend, Bobby Cutts, twice now, but he has not been named as a suspect. And we will continue to follow this for you -- Don.

LEMON: We are following the story that -- you can call this one a breaking story as well. Everyone is wondering about the space shuttle Atlantis.

It is cleared for a landing, everyone, but it won't be in Florida. The shuttle Atlantis is heading for a touchdown in California instead.

Our Miles O'Brien is all over this story. And he joins us now from the Kennedy Space Center.

Hi, Miles.


They are about 15 minutes away from encountering the first wisps of the atmosphere. They have fired de-orbit burn, now about 43 minutes away, or 48 minutes, I should say, away from landing at the Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Take a look at the picture, live pictures, coming to us from Edwards Air Force base right now. The situation there is pristine. Actually, they have gone over to mission control. The situation there is probably pretty pristine as well, although they are sitting on their edge of their seat there, as they watch the space shuttle come in, watching those consoles ever so closely.

At 3:49 p.m. Eastern time, 12:49 p.m. on the Pacific Coast, if you're in San Diego, Southern California, you might want to, during your lunch hour, take a peak up at the sky, and you will hear the double sonic boom, as the shuttle streaks overhead on its way to this location, Edwards Air Force Base, where the conditions are perfect.

Here, it was not so good today. Take a look at the cloud cover that we had to deal with all day today, low clouds, clouds that were built -- included buildups, rain showers, thunderstorms in the area, all of it unsatisfactory conditions, although it seems to be looking good there right now.

In the 30-mile disc around where I stand, there is thunderstorm activity and rain shower activity. And, so, NASA was unable to come to any sort of comfort level with returning back to Florida, which is where they like to come back home, because it's cheaper -- it's about $1.7 million every time they have to ferry the shuttle back -- and because they are watching the schedule.

It's a hit to their schedule. And they want to get Atlantis back in orbit as quickly as they can, toward the end of this year. So, the astronauts are all strapped in. They're in their launch and reentry suits. And this is what they're enduring.

They go through nose-high attitude. High angle of attack is the term they use, and, as it enters into the atmosphere, begins to bleed off speed, trading speed for heat. And the temperatures can reach 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. We all remember what happened with Columbia back in February of 2003. The heat shield breached, the shuttle disintegrating.

They have every reason to believe this heat shield is intact -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. And we certainly hope so, Miles.

Miles, where your little Atlantis look-alike shuttle, mini model?

O'BRIEN: I think I need to get that in hand, don't I?



LEMON: Yes. I'm surprised you don't have it.

O'BRIEN: I did. I -- I should have had it. I should have had it. I will have it next time.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you...

O'BRIEN: I promise I will have it next time. LEMON: All right. Have it for me next time, because I look forward to things...

O'BRIEN: Absolutely.

LEMON: When you do things like that, I look forward to it.

O'BRIEN: Good.

LEMON: All right, Miles O'Brien, thank you.

O'BRIEN: If you don't have the toys, why bother, right? Yes, OK.

LEMON: Thanks.

KEILAR: All right.

Let's get now to the CNN Weather Center, where Rob Marciano is standing by.

We know the weather is not good in Florida, Rob, but I know there were some concerns about high winds in California. But, obviously, that's not really a concern at this point, right?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No. No. Today, it looks like most of the winds have been, you know, pretty quiet.

As a matter of fact, you look at the obs up and down much of California, not only are they pretty quiet, but they are all over the place, as far as variability goes, a lot of direction to speak of.

This time of year is not the rainy season for California. They do get this marine push. You kind of see these low-level, the darker gray clouds. That's marine air that comes in that just batches up -- bangs up against the mountains. And that's really all it does.

And the Mojave Desert is on the other side of those mountains. So, those marine clouds never get in that direction. So, that is never really a concern.

We zoom in toward the Air Force, Air Force base. This is Edwards Air Force Base. This is a Google map image. There is a landing strip right there. And then we have thrown in some weather data. This is not really real-time, but it's the latest obs. And they come in at least hourly out of Edwards.

And this was just updated. So, now we are up to 92 degrees, wind speed at three miles an hour, variable wind direction. I mean, I don't think they can't get more perfect than that. We did see, from -- from the live picture, that there are a few clouds around, but they are mostly high clouds. And that is about it, visibility at 60 miles. So, we are looking good.

And we will keep monitoring the weather situation, which looks a lot better in Edwards than it does over in Cape Canaveral. That's for sure -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, thanks so much, Rob.


LEMON: A developing story we told you about last hour in the CNN NEWSROOM -- sanctions filed against Durham, North Carolina, district attorney Michael Nifong.

Let's get the very latest now from our Jason Carroll, who joins us by phone -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, defense attorneys have filed a motion, asking a judge to find Michael Nifong in criminal contempt of court.

Now, Don, this is not the same thing as being charged with a crime. It basically means you have done something to violate the administrative court proceedings. Why did they file the motion? What do they say that he did? Well, they say misleading and false representations were made by Nifong concerning those DNA test results.

They say he withheld DNA evidence which could have helped to clear the three Duke lacrosse players. Instead, they say, he just continued to pursue the case. The motion says -- quote -- "Mr. Nifong played a game of hide-and-seek and seek and seek and seek, and he should be made to pay."

You will remember that Nifong was disbarred last Saturday for breaking more than two dozen rules of professional misconduct in his handling of the Duke lacrosse case. Nifong did say that he would leave office by July 13, but that apparently not good enough for defense attorneys.

Now, what happens next, Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith makes a final ruling. He will do that on his own. There will be no jury, no trial. He will be the one to decide whether or not Nifong will be held in contempt of court.

If he does, Nifong could be put in jail, anywhere from 30 to 90 days maximum. He also just might be fined. Also, defense sources are telling me, Don, that they are also still considering pursuing a civil case against Nifong as well, so, Nifong's legal problems far from over at this point -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Jason Carroll -- thank you, Jason.

Nine caskets, thousands -- nine caskets, thousands of mourners -- the people of Charleston, South Carolina, packed a 9,000-seat arena today to mourn the nine firefighters who lost their lives in Monday's tragic furniture store blaze.

CNN's Heidi Collins is joining us now live.

And, Heidi, you know, there were -- it was obviously a very sad memorial today. But there were also some light moments, some funny stories that we heard about some of these firefighters.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That's absolutely true, Brianna.

I think, if you have ever been to a funeral, everybody really needs to hear a moment of -- of lightness, of some memories of the people who they have lost. And that is exactly what Fire Chief Thomas did today, and really talked about all of the personal memories and stories that he had of each and every one of the nine that he lost.

The day began with this processional we are looking at. It was unbelievable, about 150 different fire trucks and ambulances and so forth going past the site of the furniture warehouse where the nine men lost their lives, very emotional, indeed.

And, then, those fire trucks and ambulances and so forth came all the way to the coliseum, where we are at now, to take part in the memorial service, where family members were and other colleagues from all over the country.

I have a list in front of me of the different cities, and even Toronto, Canada, where they came to pay respects to their fellow firefighters. When the family members went inside, they were able to walk past the caskets of their loved ones. And, every time they walked by, there was a picture of the firefighter, and a spotlight shone down, and you saw the family members saying goodbye. It was definitely a moment to be seen.

But, as you say, perhaps it was the fire chief who really offered the most comfort, simply because he was able to make people laugh for just a moment. But he also helped everyone to understand how important these men were and how they will never, ever be forgotten.

You hear now the Drum and Pipe Corps from New York that has -- came in today, a very solid tradition within a fire department, and certainly something we have seen before, as they presented the colors there.

Take a moment now to bring in our guest, Heather Antos. And Heather went to Summerville High School, spent a lot of time with one of the firefighters who is no longer with us, Louis Mulkey.

I know that he played football. And you were a cheerleader. And you guys were very, very good friends. Tell me a little bit about him.

HEATHER ANTOS, FRIEND OF FALLEN FIREFIGHTER: Louis is the kind of person that makes you want to be a better person. He -- he's always been like that.

And the types of things that it takes people years to learn, sometimes their entire lifetimes to learn, the importance of friendships, the importance of family, the importance of seeing value in each and every person, even though it might take a little bit more to -- to see that in each person, he got that in high school.

COLLINS: And he was very likable. He loved kids. He did so many things with kids. And, until the day he died, he was still coaching basketball and football both.

ANTOS: That's true, yes. And he's been an integral part of the community here. The last time I saw him actually was just a couple of years ago.

It was the opening of the Children's Museum of the Low Country downtown. And he was there with a fire truck representing the Charleston Fire Department. The kids were there getting on to the fire truck, talking to the firemen, seeing the costumes -- or the uniforms.


ANTOS: And he saw me across the street, flagged me down like it was yesterday that we had seen each other, asking about my family, my parents, my sister. He doesn't forget anyone. He doesn't forget anyone's families.

COLLINS: He was really a role model, at least from what we have heard from other people we have talked to today about Louis, to those children.

They were telling me about how some of the kids actually brought him their report cards before they brought them home to their parents, because he offered -- I don't know -- either some congratulations that they wanted to hear...


COLLINS: ... or maybe some comfort.


COLLINS: What was it about him that just made him that warm of a person?

ANTOS: People have -- there's just something about him. He treated everyone exactly the same, with such respect and such value. People gravitated toward him. And they always have.

COLLINS: Mm-hmm. And, after today, you said that you were inside. And, the way you heard all of those stories about everyone, and about what it was to be a firefighter, you almost wanted to sign up yourself.


ANTOS: I was ready to sign up, yes.


COLLINS: All right, well, Heather Antos, we certainly appreciate your time here today and your memory of Louis Mulkey.

All right, back now to you, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Heidi Collins live for us from South Carolina. -- thanks for that, Heidi.

LEMON: All right, let's get you to the newsroom and to T.J., who is going to get us to San Antonio, Texas.

T.J. Holmes, what do you have?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's just go right to these pictures and show them to you.

This is what we have been watching for a little bit now. This is a tanker. Actually, I should just call this an 18-wheeler. It doesn't appear to be a tanker truck, a tanker that was carrying a chemical or anything there in the back, but an 18-wheeler that is laying across a highway there in San Antonio, on the northeast side of the city, specifically -- but don't know what happened for it to catch fire like this, what exactly was the issue, or if maybe there is some kind of chemical, maybe something on board that it was toting that would cause it to catch on fire like this.

But you see all around it the traffic tie-ups and the traffic mess that this has caused and that has developed because of -- of the issue there. But this is a road known as Loop 410 on the northeast side of the city.

And, again, the 18-wheeler is laying across that highway. Now, the fire there, as we are seeing in this picture -- don't think this is a live picture, just new video -- this picture, the fire has gone down some. You can see water being put on it there on the right side of your screen.

But it was, at one point, a pretty good size fire. We do understand that, possibly, there are other vehicles involved in this accident, not just this -- this big rig. Don't know if there are any injuries. Haven't gotten word on any injuries. Don't, also, know the possible condition or extent of any injuries of the driver of that 18- wheeler, but certainly an issue, going to be a nasty issue, coming up on -- coming up on rush hour time, again, in San Antonio, northeast side of the city -- all these pictures being brought to us by our affiliate KSAT out of San Antonio.

But we're going to try to find out -- possibly find out what happened, but also certainly important to find the condition of possibly anybody who was injured and also of that driver. So, we will keep an eye on it -- Don.

LEMON: Yes, it looks like it crossed several lanes there, so, traffic, yes, craziness. OK. We hope the driver is OK and everyone else. We will check back when you get more info.

HOLMES: All right.

LEMON: Thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: Well, what the neighbors heard was chilling. What happened behind these walls is appalling. A woman branded? When retaliation comes in the form of a brutal word. KEILAR: And what is a woman's worth? It's only half that of a man's in Iran -- Aneesh Raman on the struggle for equality with the women fighting for it in Tehran.

You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


KEILAR: It's 16 past the hour. And here are three of the stories we are working on in the CNN NEWSROOM this hour.

Thousands of mourners packed an arena today for a memorial to nine Charleston, South Carolina, firefighters. The nine men died Monday in the deadliest U.S. firefighting disaster since 9/11.

And, with bad weather continuing in Florida, the Atlantis space shuttle crew will try to land in California in about a half-an-hour. The landing is now set for 3:49 Eastern. And CNN is planning live coverage.

Also, more trouble for ex-prosecutor Mike Nifong. Nifong, as you will probably recall, was disbarred for his now debunk rape case against several Duke University lacrosse players. Well, now lawyers have filed a motion other have Nifong held in criminal contempt of court. And that could mean jail time.

LEMON: Six Flags and another company have shut down eight more rides nationwide after -- this is truly horrifying -- a horrifying accident at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville.

A 13-year-old girl lost both her feet on the Superman Tower of Power ride yesterday. There is no word on her condition today. One witness said he saw a cable snap and come up under the car, and that he saw riders lift up their legs.

Other people at the park yesterday tell their stories.


CHRIS WILLIAMS, EYEWITNESS: We seen the cable break loose soon as it got to the top on the right-hand side. And it's -- as the ride came down, the wire swung left, hit the -- struck the young lady.

TREVA SMITH, EYEWITNESS: When I got up there, the lady, she was just sitting there. And she didn't have no legs. She didn't have no legs at all.


LEMON: Police aren't confirming anything just yet. Six Flags and another firm, Cedar Fair Entertainment, well, they have both shut down similar rides at their parks nationwide, just to be safe.

KEILAR: This next story sounds like something out of the book "The Scarlet Letter," or maybe even a mafia movie, not real life, but it is: a woman kidnapped and a hot branding iron used to put the word snitch on her face.

Tess Rafols from CNN affiliate KTVK is in Phoenix, and she has that story.


TESS RAFOLS, KTVK REPORTER (voice-over): This apartment, police call it the site of a brutal crime. Neighbors say they always heard screaming, fighting, even cries for help coming from inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always heard yelling and screaming, and, you did this, you did that, and leave me alone, and what did I do?

RAFOLS: Police say this is where a 38-year-old woman was kidnapped, beaten, and branded with a hot iron, the word snitch scorched into her cheek, then blindfolded, driven, and dropped in this nearby neighborhood.

SGT. CHUCK TRAPANI, MESA, ARIZONA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: I have been in law enforcement close to 20 years, I mean, been homicides, ag assaults, but I have never seen anybody brand another person, especially in the facial area.

RAFOLS: According to police, this is how it happened. This couple looked for their victim for a year. She called police to report him beating her. Her kids were taken away.

Last week, these men lured the victim to the apartment, probably promising drugs. And they called the couple now accused of enacting the revenge.

TRAPANI: The suspects basically take chunks of her hair off her head. Her face is branded with the word snitch. Apparently, they bought a branding iron with the word snitch on it. And they had a propane torch that they heated the branding iron up, and then they applied it to the victim's face.

RAFOLS: Neighbors didn't know anything like that was going on next door, but they are glad it won't happen again.


LEMON: Very busy day at the breaking news desk, a train derailment.

Where is this one, T.J.?

HOLMES: We're taking you to Jeffersontown, Kentucky, here, if we can, soon as I get my mike on here. Stay with me, Don, just getting this about a train derailment coming to us.

The Jeffersontown Fire Department is giving us this information. This is a live picture here we're getting to you from WHAS. But you can see what happened with this train.

We don't have the word just yet on injuries. We don't have the word yet on exactly what caused this train to end up off the tracks. You can see some of the trains there -- or you can see some of the cars off the track. We don't see -- we have oftentimes seen these carrying cargo and, unfortunately, sometimes chemicals, where these will burst into flames -- so, certainly a good thing, no fire right now or anything involved with this accident.

Again, don't know what it was. Doesn't appear -- certainly, a passenger train -- appears to be a cargo train. And no word yet on injuries, as we get this live shot, at the mercy of our affiliate here, as far as what they are showing, but kind of showing a wider area here. But we will try to get back to the pictures of the train, but just something else we're keeping an eye on. Just wanted to bring you those pictures that we just came across here.

And there is another shot, another view of it, a closer view of the video. Again, don't know -- certainly, a mangled mess there. You can see tracks broken up. You can the train all busted up, several cars look -- just by initial count, 10, 10-plus, at least, going off the tracks. Don't know why. We are going to keep an eye on this, certainly bring you any information about injuries or any information we get about why this might have happened -- Don.

LEMON: And you may be reading the same thing I was just seeing. They don't appear there -- they don't believe there are any injuries, T.J. And the exact location, I think they said Water -- Waterston (ph) Trail and Electron (ph)...


HOLMES: In Jeffersontown. Not know exactly sure what that is. Yes, I'm reading that same note you're seeing there, Don. Don't exactly know what that is, Waterston (ph) Trail and Electron (ph), as you say.

But there -- but Jeffersontown, Kentucky, is where we are told this is. And this is certainly giving us a closer view here, as we are sitting here. We're all seeing these pictures for the first time together.

But, yes, again, no word on injuries. The area there, as well, doesn't look like a whole lot around. But, yes, we are just keeping an eye on it. We're monitoring that. And we will get you anything else we get -- Don.

LEMON: All right, take your breath. It's been a very busy day, man.


LEMON: All right, thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right.

KEILAR: Iran denying a reported uranium claim -- what its interior minister said or did not say about a uranium stockpile. We are going to try to sort it out ahead here in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM, we are going to have some coverage of space shuttle Atlantis making a landing at Edwards Air Force base in California, after delays over the last couple of days, finally going to make that landing.

And we are going to bring it to you live at 3:49 Eastern time. We will have that live. We will also have a live report from our space guru, Miles O'Brien.

LEMON: I like that.

KEILAR: Of course.

LEMON: Look at that, mission control. Doesn't that look cool?

KEILAR: Yes, very impressive.


LEMON: Yes, very cool. OK.

On now to business. The Senate gives the OK to a potentially big boost in fuel-efficiency standards.

Stephanie Elam is at the New York Stock Exchange with the details of the sweeping, sweeping energy bill.

Hi, Stephanie. Tell us about this sweeping energy bill.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I will try to sweep us on in there, Don.

Yes. The Senate energy bill would raise mileage standards for cars and trucks for the first time in 20 years. Senators overwhelmingly approved the bill late yesterday. And, under the measure, automakers would have to meet a fleet-wide mileage standard of 35 miles a gallon by 2020. That includes small tucks and SUVs as well.

The current standard is 27.5 miles a gallon for cars and 22.2 for SUVs. Now, the auto industry is opposed to the change, saying it would cost too much to implement, especially for trucks and SUVs. Democrats also pushed for higher taxes on oil -- on the oil industry overall, but Senate Republicans actually successfully blocked that effort.

The measure now goes to the House, where it is expected to face a number of hurdles, which, of course, is not too much of a surprise -- Don.

LEMON: Yes, facing hurdles. I think, last time we checked with you, it was like down about 100 points. So, investors are facing some hurdles today as well.

ELAM: Yes, I should have worn red today, if I had known. Pink was a little bright. Needed a little bit of red around these parts.


LEMON: You are close. You are close, though.

ELAM: I'm close. I'm kind of there.


ELAM: But it's not too pretty here. Stocks are sharply lower on this final trading day of the week -- the culprit, once again, worries about higher interest rates. Investors are concerned about more potential fallout in the subprime mortgage market.

So, let's take a look at the numbers, over to the Big Board -- the Dow industrials off 143 points, off about 1 percent, at 13401. And the Nasdaq, it's down as well. They're both down, Nasdaq down about 23 points, off about just under 1 percent as well. This is the second big sell-off this week. On Wednesday, the Dow dropped 146 points as well.

Now, before we go, Don, we want to tell you about a painting that sold for $350. You're probably thinking, that's not that big of a deal, right?

LEMON: No, not a big deal, but it probably -- what was it, like, a masterpiece or something?

ELAM: Well, it depends. It was painted by a pooch. How about that?



ELAM: The paintings were done by dogs trained to actually help the disabled. And their trainer needed cash to keep the academy open. So, she figured, hey, if her dogs can help open doors and help people put on their socks, why can't they also be taught to paint?

LEMON: Oh, that's awesome.

ELAM: It's kind of cool.

LEMON: Yes, that is cool.

ELAM: So, 20 paintings by the Shore Service Dogs are being shown at Salisbury University in Maryland. And each is signed with a paw print. The academy's Web site, in case you're interested, is

It's kind of a good idea out there. I'm kind of feeling it.


ELAM: Aww. LEMON: I was trying to think of some doggie thing to say, but -- but like ruff, but I can't figure it out. I'm not that quick today. It's Friday. It's been a long week.


ELAM: I thought you were going to just talk like Scooby-Doo or something. No?

LEMON: You know what? Don't. Don't needle me, because you know I will do crazy things.

ELAM: I know.

LEMON: So, Stephanie, we will check, closing bell about 30 minutes away.

ELAM: I will be here.

LEMON: All right. Thank you. Ruff, ruff.

ELAM: Ruff.


KEILAR: All right.

Are you too busy? Do you never have the time to work out? Well, now imagine going to work and still getting in your 30 minutes of exercise. Wouldn't that be great? And, if you think it's too good to be true, well, you need check out this afternoon's "Fit Nation" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who says it's not so far-fetched.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine an office that is more like a gym.

Dr. James Levine would like every workplace to trade monotony for movement. Levine, who is an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, believes workers can keep moving and still be productive. He created a special platform designed to fit around a treadmill.

It only goes a mile an hour, but the effect is noticeable.

DR. JAMES LEVINE, MAYO CLINIC: You burn an extra 100 to 150 calories an hour.

GUPTA: Add that up, eight hours a day, that's close to 1,000 calories.

Skeptics say it's almost impossible to concentrate on a treadmill for long periods.

DENISE FEELEY, MEDSTAR RESEARCH INSTITUTE: It would seem a better use of your time to actually take a break and go out and have a 20-minute walk, a fast walk. You would probably expend more calories than you would standing on -- walking on this treadmill for a couple of hours.

GUPTA: Dr. Jeff Fidler, a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic, sits at his desk looking at 16,000 images a day. Accuracy crucial as he tries to pinpoint abnormalities.

In a research study, Fidler and a colleague used the treadmill every day while studying films. Fiddler lost 25 pounds and made no mistakes.

DR. Jeff FIDLER, RADIOLOGIST, MAYO CLINIC: And, in fact, it improved our detection rate up to 99 percent.

GUPTA: They cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500, depending on the type of treadmill that comes with it. Levine says using the equipment for just a couple of hours a day will produce significant health benefits.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


LEMON: All right. It's getting close. What is it, about 10, 15, 20 minutes away, right? 3:49 Eastern Time.

Look at the skies there in California. That's where they are getting ready for the space shuttle Atlantis to make a landing. They've been waiting for a long time.

The shuttle is coming home, everybody. And you're going to watch it and see it right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Don't go anywhere.


KEILAR: In about 20 minutes the shuttle Atlantis should be back on Earth. The shuttle is heading for Edwards Air Force Base in California.

And our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, and a special guest of his waiting and watching from two other sites, join us now.

Hi there, Miles.


Neither of us are at Edwards Air Force Base. I'm where they would have liked to have brought the space shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis on its way to its backup landing site.

Joining me is someone who is a three-time shuttle astronaut and a longtime flier aboard the space station, one time came back on a Soyuz rocket, astronaut Leroy Chiao, who's in Houston.

Leroy, good to have you with us. The astronauts now are at 200,000 feet. They're traveling 11,000 miles an hour.

Just take us through what's going on right now with the orbiter.

LEROY CHIAO, FMR. ASTRONAUT: Well, everything sounds like it's going great. They are coming back down. There is a lot of anticipation of coming down and landing and being reunited with loved ones, especially with -- for Suni Williams, who has been on the space station, as you just said, over six and a half months.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about that, six and a half months. She set a record for a woman in space. She beat Shannon Lucid's record. She set that aboard the space spacious Mir several years ago.

You also did a six and a half month stay aboard the International Space Station. What's it like coming back to Earth and gravity after all that time in weightlessness?

CHIAO: Well, I'll tell you, it is -- it is a bigger deal than on a two-week shuttle flight. After a two-week shuttle mission, you know, I'll kind of use that as a baseline having flown three shuttle flights before. And coming back after a six and a half month flight was quite a bit more difficult.

Subjectively, I'd say it felt about two to two and a half times more severe, the symptoms of dizziness and all the rest. But I also found that working out -- and my crew worked out very hard, and we recovered very, very quickly. In fact, I think we may have been the fastest recovering crew from a space station flight.

But knowing Suni Williams, she probably worked out even harder than we did. So she may -- I bet she bounces back very quickly.

O'BRIEN: All you astronauts are so competitive.

The shuttle right now is at 183,000 feet, traveling 9,000 miles an hour. Let's talk a little bit as well about how the shuttle kind of enters the atmosphere.

It's got that nose high attitude. It does these kind of S-turns to bleed off speed.

CHIAO: Right.

O'BRIEN: It's I very hot. Explain how that all works.

CHIAO: Well, basically, you're coming down. And of course the computers all knew when to fire the ohms engines to initiate the de- orbit burn.

And as you come down, we bleed off that excess energy, kind of just a fine-tuning maneuver so that you arrive on speed, on altitude at the high point to make the final turn to touch down on the runway. Right about now they are definitely feeling the onset of G. Subjectively, I found that about one third G is when I really started noticing the inner air again. So they are feeling a little bit heavy, starting to feel a little bit dizzy if they move their heads around. You can bet your -- you can bet that Rick Sturckow is keeping his head straight and focused on the task at hand and -- as they approach the landing site.

O'BRIEN: Rick Sturckow is the mission commander as they continue. What you are seeing here now is this plasma around them.

It can reach temperatures of 3,000 degrees. We all remember what happened with Columbia with that heat shield being breached. In this case, there was a thorough series of inspections on orbit. No reason to believe that heat shield is in a bad way. They even did a repair on orbit.

Let's get back to Suni, though. Suni made her mark on space in many ways. And one of the ways which people remember her for is her dog.

CHIAO: Right.

O'BRIEN: Her Jack Russell Terrier Gorby. She actually brought a poster board version of Gorby, and he appeared kind of (INAUDIBLE) in all the pictures from space.

Tell us about that.

CHIAO: Oh, Gorby is a great dog. I met Gorby when he was just a pup.

In fact, Suni and I were training to fly together on the space station before the Columbia accident. But Gorby is a great dog. Suni had had him over to Star City while she trained on at least one visit. And he's just a cute little dog.

And he's named Gorby because he has got that mark on his forehead, you know, which doesn't look too dissimilar to one that Mikhail Gorbachev has, the birthmark that Mikhail Gorbachev has.

O'BRIEN: Let's get back to the shuttle, too. I don't quite see the Gorby marking, but I guess it's there.

Let's get back to the shuttle. And you talked about feeling the first pull of gravity. You are surrounded by kind of this glow, this plasma. Is that -- first of all, you don't feel any heat because you're in your suit and it's cooled and all that. But is it a scary sensation?

CHIAO: Well, you know, you can see the plasma wrap around the shuttle. And you see the faint red glow out of the window and it starts getting a little more intense. And it also wraps around the shuttle on both sides, and it kind of spikes periodically on the top. And you can actually see that out the overhead windows.

You don't feel the heat. The insulation is so good that it's not until you are on the runway that the heat actually starts soaking into the cabin. And so you are nice and cool inside. You've got the liquid cooling going. So the astronauts are actually quite comfortable.

O'BRIEN: All right, Leroy Chiao. We're going to leave it at that for now.

We are talking about nine minutes away from the landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Runway 22. There you see it right now.

We will come back in just a little while and we'll bring the shuttle home -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Thanks, Michael, live for us from Kennedy Space Center there in Florida as we await the 3:49 p.m. Eastern landing of shuttle Atlantis across the U.S., at Edwards Air Force base there in California.

LEMON: A teenage girl's summer day at the amusement park comes to a horrific end. That is straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: All right. Just into the CNN NEWSROOM, see that right there in the center of your screen? That is the space shuttle Atlantis making its landing at Edwards Air Force Base.

We want to bring in CNN's Miles O'Brien. Miles is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Miles, can you see these pictures?

O'BRIEN: I sure can, Don. We are five minutes from landing. And they said it was 60 miles visibility at Edwards Air Force Base, and we can confirm that right now because the shuttle is still a little distance away from the long landing strip there at the Edwards Air Force Base, Runway 22.

They are coming in now, traveling, bleeding off speed somewhere below 3,000 miles an hour, below 100,000 feet. But this tracking camera picking up the shuttle. The good news in all of this is they are well past all the high heating moments on re-entry.

And let's bring in Leroy Chiao if we can, astronaut Leroy Chiao, who's done this three times, been aboard and actually did one re-entry on a Soyuz rocket.

Leroy, at this point, of course the crew has done what they call fluid loading. They've taken a lot of brink and salt tablets and so forth.

CHIAO: Right.

O'BRIEN: But some of them have been in space for two weeks. In the case of Suni Williams, six months.

Are they feeling ill at all right now? CHIAO: Well, no. They're probably feeling a little bit dizzy. You know, if they're moving their heads around or just, you know, through the shuttle turns. But no, they are feeling pretty good right now.

And, you know, you are keyed up because this is a huge deal, of course, landing. And so they are not really, you know, concentrating on how they feel.

O'BRIEN: Yes. It's -- did you feel nauseous at all as we look -- by the way, we're looking at what the pilot is seeing, Lee Archambault. This is the head up (ph) display.

And if you look on the left-hand side you'll see the speed. It's somewhere around 220 knots, I believe there. And then on the right hand side is the altitude. It looks like about 55,000 feet.

CHIAO: Right.

O'BRIEN: That's right on the button, isn't it, Leroy?

CHIAO: Yes, it looks like it's right on the -- right on the numbers there.

And Miles, as far as far as your question about feeling nauseous, yes, the dizziness can cause a little bit of nausea. And I do feel a little bit nauseous when I come back. And like I said, it was a little worse on the space station mission just by virtue of having been up there for so darn long.

O'BRIEN: How long was it, Leroy, before you felt like normal?

CHIAO: Well, subjectively, after about three days, I felt really -- I didn't feel wobbly at all. And after a week I felt subjectively like I was back to normal. And I'm sure all the tests showed that I was probably still a little bit wobbly and things like that, but just subjectively felt normal after the space station mission.

O'BRIEN: Two minutes and 50 seconds to landing. And at this point, it's worth pointing out here that the commander, Rick Sturckow -- they call him C. J., a Marine pilot -- this is the first time he will land the shuttle for real.

This is his third flight, but he's flown as a pilot. The commander does the landing.

It's amazing to me -- they always say it's just like the simulator. I know you don't sit in the front seats, but do all the astronauts seem to feel comfortable when they finally fly it for the first time, for the real thing?

CHIAO: Well, you know, I mean, the simulator is a great training ground. And of course the shuttle training aircraft is very realistic because it's an actual airplane that has been set up to mimic the shuttle and its flight response. But, of course, the real time for anything, and especially a commander making his first landing, this is the tense moment for him or her.

O'BRIEN: I should say so. I assume time kind of stands still.

Now, as they come down, let's point out a few things that are worth pointing out. They drop right now -- look at how steep it is there. It gives you a sense of it.

It's 10,000 feet per minute. To give you some perspective, an airliner comes in about 500 feet a minute. It's about 17, 18 times steeper than flying United Airlines. And you sort of get the sense you're in dive bomber, don't you?

CHIAO: Oh, absolutely. The glide slope for an airliner is about three degrees. And as you just pointed out, for the shuttle it's anywhere between 17 and 22 degrees.

Now, the speed is also a little faster, but not that dramatic. The speed of an airline landing is probably around 130 knots, 140 knots or so. And for the shuttle it's between 195 and 212, depending on the weight.

O'BRIEN: Now, we are a minute and 12 seconds from landing right now. They just head on at the 180, which is a key point in this turn, this heading alignment turn, along the heading alignment cylinder, a cone, where they bleed off any excess energy and have just the right amount of energy to land. Because we are talking about a 200,000 pound glider here. This is a one-shot deal.

CHIAO: That's right.

O'BRIEN: And they want to make sure they manage the energy so well. A computer helps them do this, right?

CHIAO: That's right. You have got a guidance diamond in there. You've also got needles on the ball, on the EDI (ph). And so the commander has several options to make sure he's lined up.

O'BRIEN: All right, 36 seconds to landing. Fifteen seconds before landing we'll see the landing gear drop. That happens only at 150 feet above the runway. You want those to work, and they are sort of spring loaded, quite literally.

Let's watch and listen as Atlantis comes home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One minute to touchdown.

O'BRIEN: I assume there is no talk on board the shuttle at this time Leroy, very quiet, just as it is for us?

CHIAO: Yes, that's right. At this time they are letting C. J. do all the work and they're keeping quiet so he can keep concentrated on the task.

O'BRIEN: All right. There goes the landing gear. That means we are 15 seconds away.

Let's watch the touchdown here, Runway 22, Edwards Air Force Base, space shuttle Atlantis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Landing gear down and locked. Main gear touchdown. Nose gear touchdown.

Atlantis rolling out on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base, wrapping up a 5.8 million mile mission. Atlantis completing its 28th mission, leaving the International Space Station with more power generation capability and bringing home expedition 15 astronaut Suni Williams after 195 days in space.

O'BRIEN: There it is, Atlantis rolling to a stop right now.

Leroy Chiao, everything going as you would expect. The term in aviation, I think he greased that. We can officially say that.

CHIAO: Yes. It looks great.

O'BRIEN: Now begins -- now for Suni Williams, we should point out that after 195 days in space, as they just pointed out, record- setting stay for a woman, she is actually reclining right now. What was that like landing that way? And how does that help you?

CHIAO: Well, what it is, is, you know, the fluids -- because you are not used to gravity anymore, if you are in a standing or in a sitting position, it's going to be less likely that you are going to be feeling well. So, in a recumbent, or lying down position, you are going to be feeling better. And it's really only when you stand up that you're really going to feel dizzy and maybe a bit nauseous.

O'BRIEN: Leroy Chiao.

OK. We are going to have to leave it there.

Wheel stop for Atlantis, that 5.8 million mile two-week journey is over safely. In about an hour's time we'll see the astronauts as the do the customary walk around, kick the tires, so to speak, although they don't really kick the tires.

Leroy, thanks for talking the shuttle down with us.

Leroy Chiao, three-time shuttle flier, one-time six-month station keeper on board the International Space Station.

We appreciate you being with us today.

CHIAO: My pleasure, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Back to you, Don.

LEMON: Thanks to both of you, Miles and Mr. Chiao, Leroy Chiao.

Great job you did there, Miles.

CNN NEWSROOM will continue after this. We are certainly glad that the astronauts are back home, and the space shuttle Atlantis, everyone is safe. We are back in a moment.


KEILAR: And we want to show you some pictures just into the CNN NEWSROOM of the landing of space shuttle Atlantis. A picture-perfect landing into Edwards Air Force Base there in California.

Of course, there were some delays in getting shuttle Atlantis back to Earth. But it finally happened just about 10 minutes ago.

And Atlantis, as you may recall, was up in space, the crew there at the International Space Station. They were installing a large solar array that can actually track the sun. And they were bringing back a crew member from the International Space Station.

So shuttle Atlantis, the crew safely on the ground there in California.

LEMON: A hundred and ninety-five days in space, 5.8 million-mile mission. How would you like to have that many miles on your car?

KEILAR: I know.

LEMON: All right.

Time now to check in with Stephanie Elam for a final look at the trading day.


LEMON: Now it's time to send it over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".


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