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Space Shuttle Discovery Becomes Museum Exhibit; Australian Forces Prepare to Leave Afghanistan

Aired April 18, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A final flight, a solar eruption and an early troop withdrawal, they`re all coming your way in the next 10 minutes. I`m Carl Azuz. CNN Student News starts right now.


AZUZ: First up today, a new museum display in Washington, D.C., that`s out of this world, at least it has been. The space shuttle Discovery reached its retirement home yesterday. Before we talk about that arrival, John Zarrella looks back at the shuttle`s history and space travel`s future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booster ignition.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): February 24th of last year, the 39th and final liftoff of the shuttle Discovery, 148 million miles traveled over a quarter-century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Discovery now making one last reach for the stars.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The oldest of the three orbiters, Discovery was the first to be retired. At first light Tuesday morning, this time, no roar of rocket engines, just jet engines, riding piggyback on a 747. Destination: permanent display at the Smithsonian in Washington.

ALVIN DREW, MISSION SPECIALIST STS-133: This things just beckons, like come on I can take this on again, come on, just hop in. Let`s fire up and go again.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The astronauts who flew Discovery that last time are here to watch her off.

STEVE LINDSEY, COMMANDER OF DISCOVERY STS-133: It`s sad in that we`re done, and, you know, she`s going away. On the other hand, she`s going to the Smithsonian where hopefully millions of people over the next gazillion years are going to get to go see Discovery.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The U.S. now relies on the Russians to ferry its astronauts to the International Space Station. The cost, about $60 million dollars a seat. NASA is stuck with this arrangement for at least the next four years. That`s until a commercial company is ready.

DREW: I am confident that commercial space will eventually succeed and do great things. If you asked me to put my money on any one company and say this company is going to be the one that does it or succeeds, I don`t know, they just don`t -- I just -- they are all taking very different approaches.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Space X hopes to be that company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have liftoff of the Falcon 9.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): It has already orbited its Dragon Spacecraft around the Earth. At the end of this month, the company`s toughest test to date, an attempt to rendezvous its unmanned Dragon and berth it to the space station. By then, Discovery will be on display.

Enterprise, a test shuttle which was in the Smithsonian, will be in New York, going to the Intrepid Museum.

STEPHANIE STILSON, DISCOVERY FLOW DIRECTOR: For me personally, once we get Discovery to the Smithsonian and we`ve done all the work and she`s ready to go and now it`s my time to walk away and leave her there, I`ll now start focusing on Enterprise and getting Enterprise up to New York. But that`s going be very hard to leave Discovery for that last time.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): At least now, everyone will have the opportunity to look up close at a space flying machine unlike anything ever built.


AZUZ: Discovery will be formally welcomed to the Smithsonian collection during a ceremony tomorrow. After that, people can visit the famous flyer at the museum.


AZUZ (voice-over): But a lot of folks had the chance to check out Discovery on its way to that retirement spot. They gathered around the National Mall or at other spots in D.C. to watch the shuttle and its carrier as they approached Washington. The pilot seemed happy to accommodate the crowd, circling the mall a few times for pictures and cheers.

Eventually, Discovery did come in for a landing, not the only shuttle going on display, though. You heard John Zarrella mention that Enterprise is heading to New York. Endeavour will be at a museum in Los Angeles, and Atlantis will stay on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

We want you to watch the left side of your screen closely here. All right. You see that? Kind of looked like the sun burped up some energy. Well, that was a solar flare. NASA`s Solar Dynamics Laboratory caught this on video. Looks pretty impressive, but scientists say that on the scale of solar flares, this one was just medium-sized.

Sometimes these kinds of eruptions on the sun can have an impact here on Earth. Not this one, though. The spot where this happened was pointed away from the planet when the flare erupted.



JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Australia`s commitment in Afghanistan will look very different to that which we have today. We will have completed our training and mentoring mission with the 4th Brigade.

We will no longer be conducting routine front-line operations with the Afghan National Security Forces. The Australian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team will have completed its work, and the majority of our troops will have returned home.


AZUZ: More than 130,000 troops from 50 different countries are currently in Afghanistan. But as you just heard Prime Minister Julia Gillard say, most of Australia`s forces could be leaving Afghanistan soon.


AZUZ (voice-over): Right now, there are around 1,500 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. Gillard`s announcement means they could be leaving a year earlier than she had suggested before. Nick Paton Walsh explains some possible reasons for the shift.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While Australia`s contribution is comparatively small, they were one of the more robust allies throughout America`s presence here, and even when Barack Obama in June 2011 said that he`d be withdrawing his surge of troops, Julia Gillard came out and quite categorically said Australia would be staying until the end of 2014.

So a dramatic reversal in her position over the past nine months, presumably down to electoral mass. We`ve also seen this from the French, where the war is deeply unpopular inside France.

And after French soldiers were killed by Afghan soldiers earlier this year, Sarkozy came out and said that they, too, would be withdrawing by the end of next year, and even the United States has, in fact, indicated that its troops will be in a non-combat role by the middle of next year.

So poor signaling, really, ahead of a vital conference in Chicago, in which NATO members were supposed to get together and reaffirm their commitments of troops cached to the months and years ahead. Australia adding itself to the list of countries who want a quick out than previously imagined.

Now this is all really down to a suggestion from Ms. Gillard that the Afghan security forces are stepping up to the place much quicker. They`re ready to handle security, or you may be hearing in the distance some gunfire. That is just test firing. But they are ready to take over the job of securing the country when NATO leaves.



AZUZ (voice-over): Last week we talked about the Ring of Fire. It`s an area around the Pacific Ocean that`s home to the majority of the world`s earthquakes. Chile on the west coast of South America is located on the Ring of Fire, and that`s where a quake hit late Monday night.

You can see the camera shaking during this news broadcast. What you`re looking at is an aftershock. It hit while the anchor was reporting on the initial quake. That one had a magnitude of 6.7.

The same part of Chile was hit by a much more powerful quake in 2010 that killed hundreds of people. Monday`s tremor wasn`t nearly as destructive, although it did cause some mudslides and minor damage, and knocked out some power and phone lines in the region.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Ms. Haydock`s social studies classes at Woodlan Junior/Senior High School in Woodburn, Indiana. Which of these words refers to an object`s speed in a specific direction? Here we go. Is it amplitude, sublimation, refraction or velocity? You`ve got three seconds, go.

An object`s velocity is its speed when it moves in a certain direction. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Knowing the difference between angular velocity and linear velocity helped one physicist fight a traffic ticket. Here`s the setup. Police officer says driver didn`t stop at a stop sign. Driver says he did.


AZUZ (voice-over): In order to try to prove his innocence, the driver writes a four-page paper, explaining how the laws of physics are on his side. He argued that if the observer`s view is obscured, a vehicle traveling at a constant speed could look similar to one that quickly decelerates and then reaccelerates just as quickly.

OK, simple version: he stopped and then started driving again really quickly. But since another vehicle was blocking the officer`s view, it looked like he never made a complete stop.

Well, the judge was convinced, and so was the officer. So ticket dismissed. This explanation probably won`t work for other drivers. The physicist says he got help from a unique and rare combination of circumstances.


AZUZ: All right. Before we go today, we have an epic animal showdown.


AZUZ (voice-over): Giraffe versus butterfly. OK, maybe not so epic, but definitely cute, especially because it`s a baby giraffe. The little lady was born last month at the Bronx Zoo in New York and I guess we should say she wasn`t so little, around six feet tall and 100 pounds at birth. The butterfly is taking a pretty big risk taking on something that big. It better hope the giraffe doesn`t catch up to it.


AZUZ: It`ll definitely learn not to stick its neck out again. Man. That`s all we have for today, because coming up with these giraffe puns, that`s a tall order. Enjoy the rest of your day.