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Protests Greet Trump on Visit to Pittsburgh Synagogue; India Unveils World's Tallest Statue; NASA Probe Closer to Sun than Any Other Spacecraft; Investigation Focused on Boeing 737 Max 8; Pakistan's High Court to Rule on Asia Bibi's Appeal; Challenges Facing Young Americans; Whitey Bulger Killed in Prison.Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 31, 2018 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A presidential visit meant to unify after tragedy, even though Pittsburgh's mayor asked him not to come. Protesters and Jewish groups demanded he stay away. Grieving relatives declined to meet with him and congressional leaders refused to travel with him.

Attributable to global aspiration or a vanity project to feed the ego of India's prime minister. The world's biggest statue has been unveiled and it comes with a controversy almost as big.

And coddling the next generation into failure. How not to raise a snowflake.

Hello and welcome to all our viewers around the world, great to have you with us. I'm John Vause and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: President Donald Trump traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, a city grieving over the most deadly attack on American Jews in U.S. history. Not everyone was opposed to the presidential visit but there was a lot of strong opposition, especially from many within the city's Jewish community.

The president kept a low profile, making no public comments; instead lighting candles and placing stones and flowers at the scene of Saturday's mass shooting, the Tree of Life Synagogue.

And just a block away, protesters chanted slogans like, "We build bridges, not walls," and "President Hate, Leave Our State."

The four most senior leaders in Congress, both Republican and Democrat, all declined an invitation to travel to Pittsburgh with Donald Trump. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more now from Pittsburgh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to show you how this day went. The president showed up here and, just blocks, at one point about a block from where he was, thousands of protesters gathered. This is sort of the end of it. People are now breaking up here.

But it was -- it was prayers. It was singing. It was a neighborhood and a city coming together basically to say we don't want the president here and that they will get beyond this.

This neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, everyone just in tears today, walking around here; no matter where you went, you just saw people crying and emotional. It turned to anger at certain points during the protest. There was at least one person who was arrested.

I spoke to a young woman. She is a first generation Indian American who came here. Here's why she was so upset about the president's visit.


SUGANYA SCHMURA, CARNEGIE, PENNSYLVANIA: I think everyone should feel terrified of what's coming for our country if this is becoming a normal thing in our society. And it has been normalized.

Shootings have kind of been almost expect like what next?

Where's the next place?

And it's sad to feel scared living in America, because this is supposed to be a land where you feel free, you practice your religion, free to be who you are and it doesn't feel that way anymore.


MARQUEZ: And what was most remarkable about this protest is that it wasn't planned 24 hours before the president arrived here. We weren't even sure that anybody was going to show up. But there were 20 and then there were 50. And before long, within an hour, there were over a thousand people.

And by the end of it, there were several thousand people in the streets of Squirrel Hill, singing and protesting so that the president himself could hear them as he was paying his respects.

The city, this neighborhood, this city, this area just torn by this entire episode. And we've only seen the first funerals. The rest will continue through this week.


VAUSE: Mark Hetfield is the president and CEO of HIAS, what was formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. He joins me now from Pittsburgh.

Mark, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: Normally at moments like this, a presidential visit to the scene of a national tragedy is like the entire country stopping by and paying their respects. But I don't think I've ever seen a president so unwelcome as Donald Trump was on Tuesday.

Is that because of what he said in the past?

Was it just simply bad timing?

How do you explain it?

HETFIELD: Well, what Pittsburgh needs, what the whole country needs right now is healing. We need to address this epidemic of hate speech, which is leading to hateful actions around the country. And, I mean, we -- maybe the president's not responsible for all of it. But certainly he has not helped it. And he's been a bit of an irritant when it comes to hate speech in this country. And also, it's not --


HETFIELD: -- just that he said hateful things in the past; he said hateful things this morning. He woke up and immediately declared that he was going to try to abolish birthright citizenship, which, again, is otherizing people who are born outside of the United States.

VAUSE: Yes. The alleged shooter, he ranted online quite a bit. HIAS was not spared the hate. He accused your group of helping murderous invaders reach the U.S. But facts matter and the reality really is quite the opposite to the garbage this guy was posting online.

HETFIELD: Absolutely. Absolutely.

VAUSE: You've helped 4.5 million people escape persecution over the years?

HETFIELD: We are the oldest refugee organization on Earth. So, yes, since our founding, we've helped about 4.5 million people. But we were established in the 19th century in New York City to help refugees.

And that's what we're still doing today. What -- we describe our history as going from an organization that helped refugees because they were Jewish to one that helps refugees because we are Jewish. But, yes, that's why we've been able to help so many people.

VAUSE: In language which was strikingly similar to the accused shooter, the president described the immigrants in a caravan heading for the U.S. border as an "invasion" and a threat. He's also pushed this idea that somehow there is something criminal for immigrants to try and want to come to the United States.

But isn't that the American dream?

HETFIELD: And it's not just the American dream. HIAS is motivated to protect refugees because of our experience during the 20th century, especially during the 1930s and the 1940s, when Jews were literally trapped inside of a genocide in Europe.

And it was out of the ashes of the Holocaust that the right to seek and enjoy asylum was declared as an international human right by the international -- by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and then by the Refugee Convention of 1951.

So if somebody comes to our borders and those people are fleeing persecution, as some of the people from Central America certainly are, they have the right to make an asylum claim and to get protection if they need it. That's a right under international law.

VAUSE: Your motto is "Welcome the stranger, protect the refugee." And this is from your website.

"We understand better than anyone that hatred, bigotry and xenophobia must be expressly prohibited in domestic and international law because the right to refuge is a universal human right. HIAS is now dedicated to providing welcome, safety and freedom to refugees of all faiths and ethnicities."

So how much harder is it now to carry out that mission statement in the era of Donald Trump?

HETFIELD: Well, you know, there is a real imbalance here, because, on the one hand, we actually feel we have more supporters than we've had ever. And this has been the case, not just since Saturday but since our community and much of the world woke up to the global refugee crisis in September of 2015.

So we have a lot of support. But on the other hand, our partner in this, our most important partner perhaps in this, is the United States government. And the U.S. government is no longer a reliable partner because of this hateful rhetoric against Muslims, against refugees, against immigrants.

And what we really have to remember in this attack that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue is this was -- this wasn't was an attack against Jews. This was an anti-Semitic attack.

But people who are anti-Semitic aren't just anti-Jewish. They tend to hate other groups as well. And this particular attack was motivated by an anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish impetus but also by a hatred of refugees and immigrants.

VAUSE: What I think a lot of people don't realize is how the Jewish community and the Muslim community, where you are, just stood side by side, not just at this moment but in other difficult moments in the last couple of years.

You spoke out about Trump's Muslim ban. You called his words hateful when his administration slashed the number of refugees allowed into the U.S., it went from 110,000 in 2017 to a projected 30,000.

You accused Trump of betraying the commitments the U.S. made after World War II and to make sure that the world never again turns its back on innocent people seeking safety.

Piece by piece, it seems, this president is chipping away at the U.S. leadership role on so many issues, be it refugees, be it immigrants, be it asylum, regardless of what it is and regardless of what people say, he just keeps doing it.

HETFIELD: The one thing that we're experiencing --


HETFIELD: -- now in the wake of this horrible tragedy here in Pittsburgh is that we at HIAS feel that there is more support out there among Jews and non-Jews for our mission than ever before and for the mission of other organizations that protect refugees.

So you know, yes, our elected leader is not with us on this. But we have so much support and so much love for refugees. What we had here, what HIAS organized last week, was this refugee Shabbat, where over 300 congregations in 32 states and the District of Columbia celebrated refugees and made it clear that the Jewish people welcome refugees to this country.

And that's what motivated this murderer to come into this synagogue on that day to commit this unspeakable atrocity.

But what we have going for us is the fact that so many people, so many Americans stand behind us to welcome refugees. What we have to address now is the unfounded fear that others feel towards refugees, confusing people who are fleeing terror with the terror from which they flee.

VAUSE: We're out of time. I feel we're at that moment where even the darkest night comes to an end. Maybe that's where we're at right now. Thanks for being with us.

HETFIELD: I hope so. I hope so.

VAUSE: Still no sign of the flight data recorders from the Lion Air flight which crashed Monday shortly after takeoff from Jakarta. Meantime, attention is now focused on the almost brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8. Here is Will Ripley with late details on the investigation.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Indonesian crews recover more pieces of a mangled plane and more remains of 189 people on board, new questions emerge about the cutting edge airliner that tumbled out of the sky just 13 minutes after takeoff.

The Boeing 737 Max is one of the newest, most advanced planes in the world, a version of the best-selling commercial jetliner ever flown by some of the largest U.S. airlines, including Southwest and American.

Indonesia will now inspect all of the aircraft in country. Lion Air is one of the biggest customers for 737s, spending nearly $22 billion in 2011; At the time, Boeing's largest single order for commercial jets ever. The plane that crashed was delivered just three months ago with only 800 flight hours.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Kind of the top of the line. It's one of the best you can buy.

RIPLEY (voice-over): But the roll-out has not been trouble-free. Boeing temporarily grounded the entire 737 Max fleet last year, citing concerns about a manufacturing quality issue inside its new engines. Boeing says it resolved the issue and quickly resumed production.

Now the worst commercial airline crash in three years is triggering an urgent investigation. Boeing issued a statement, saying they're providing technical assistance at the request and under the direction of government authorities investigating the accident.

The key questions, why did the pilot ask to turn back just minutes into the flight without declaring an emergency?

Did a technical issue the night before the crash play a role, even though Lion Air says it fixed the problem?

With no severe weather and no evidence of an explosion or fire, how could a brand-new plane plunge so suddenly from 5,200 feet?

SOUCIE: Something happened to lose control of that aircraft or something that lost power or something that made that aircraft go down.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The clues to solving this aviation mystery may lie in the plane's fuselage and the so-called black boxes lying somewhere at the bottom of the Java Sea. And for the millions of people who fly in these planes, answers can't come soon enough -- Will Ripley, CNN.


VAUSE: Pakistan's highest court is expected to announce at any moment if a Christian woman will live or die. Asia Bibi has been on death row since 2010 when she was found guilty of blasphemy. She was charged with making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with three Muslim women.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court amid the glare of international attention. CNN's Sophia Saifi joins us now from Islamabad.

Sophia, if the Supreme Court upholds this original verdict, that doesn't leave a lot of options; in fact, probably just one, a direct appeal for clemency to the president.

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Yes. She'll have to appeal for that. And if that sentence is upheld, she would become the first woman to actually be on death row, to be hung if she is on cases --


SAIFI: -- on an accusation of blasphemy. Now there is a lot of security. This is, of course, a very controversial subject here in Pakistan. It's a very sensitive subject. Many people are wary about talking about it.

And considering the fact that Asia Bibi's case has been ongoing for almost nine years, we've had a situation where the governor of Punjab province, back in 2011, spoke out in support of her. He was killed and shot dead by his very own bodyguard, who was then sentenced to death.

His bodyguard's funeral saw a complete shutdown of the major city of Rawalpindi when thousands of supporters came out in support of him and what he stood for that, he -- I mean, there are lots of supporters here in Pakistan, these fiery clerics who believe that Asia should be hung and that that sentence should be upheld.

Now they've said, the TLP, that if the Supreme Court does decide to acquit Asia Bibi, then they will cause chaos across the country. And that is something, although it would be a great positive judgment, that she is acquitted, there is fear across the capital, across the major cities of Pakistan, that there could be a sort of mob coming out in the streets of the cities of this country -- John.

VAUSE: OK. This is a story we'll continue to watch in the coming hours. Sophia, thanks for the update. We appreciate it.

Those college years were once a chance to grow into your own skin, make your own mistakes and then sober up. Next here, how technology and overprotective parents created such a safe space for their kids, they're setting them up for future failure.




VAUSE: A few years ago, they just sort of turned up. They came without warning, kind of out of nowhere. At first, no one was really sure where they came from, terms like "safe space," "microaggression," "trigger warnings."

This was a new language of liberal snowflakes, the risk-averse, safety-obsessed, so-called I Generation, kids born after 1995, the ones probably cowering in a campus corner somewhere, desperately searching for a safe space.

Or maybe they were the ones who protested at UC Berkeley last year, when the right-wing flame thrower and desperately seeking FaceTime Mano Yiannopoulos, was invited to speak to a --


VAUSE: -- conservative student group. Yiannopoulos was forced to cancel his speech at Berkeley.

Yes, that Berkeley, birthplace of the free speech movement. These days it seems the I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say. It is more like, oh, run away in tears and please stop.

A recent study found this I Generation obsessed with safety. They drink less, smoke less, become sexually active later, which, I guess, in many ways, is a good thing but they don't want to leave home. And they want to be kept away from people they disagree with.

In other words, they want to be protected from the ideas they don't like because they'll get upset.

And now a new book takes a closer look at how this happened and maybe how we can fix it. "The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure."

And one of the authors, Greg Lukianoff, joins us now from New York.

Greg, first of all, I'd like to thank you for dressing up and thank you for being with us.

GREG LUKIANOFF, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me. Great.

VAUSE: OK. The premise here is the I Generation kids, kids born after 1995, are significantly different than Millennials born between '82 and 1994.

It is just the social media here?

Is that the big game changer?

LUKIANOFF: The social media makes a big difference. It doesn't explain everything going on when you look at the data but there is definitely a correlation. So we went looking for what happened around 2013, because -- -I defend free speech on campuses.

And students had always been the best people on campus for freedom of speech. But then suddenly, like you said, we had microaggressions and disinvitations and all this stuff happened seemingly overnight.

And as me and my co-author looked into it, we actually found some really disturbing findings about how different the IGen, the Internet Generation born after 1995 is, particularly when it comes to issues as serious as mental health.

VAUSE: What we were hearing in what your book puts out and some of the other studies out there is that they just don't want to hear stuff which upsets them. And you argue that that's just not a really good place to be for mental health.

LUKIANOFF: Well, we should be clear that most students are OK. But unfortunately, what we've done -- and we kind of look at this through the lens of cognitive behavioral therapy -- we've taught a habit of catastrophizing, we've created lots of obstacles to actually talking with people who don't share your point of view.

And we look at trends, including political polarization. And, unfortunately, we think we've let all of these things add up to a situation in which we're going deeper and deeper into our echo chambers instead of actually trying to talk across lines of difference.

VAUSE: I thought we were already doing that. That's what our generation was doing. Nobody -- we had the conservatives on FOX News. The liberals go away, they watch MSNBC. Everyone has their own newspapers. No one talks to anybody. No one even lives together anymore.

Actually, the Democrats and Republicans --

LUKIANOFF: Right down the city block, by the way.

VAUSE: -- and there was a state recently that said that they would -- you know, that parents don't want their kids, if they're Democrats, they don't want their kids dating Republicans. I thought we were already well on the way to that sort of stovepiping.

LUKIANOFF: We absolutely were but social media sped everything up. It sped up both polarization, it sped up anxiety and depression, unfortunately. So a lot of trends that we saw coming -- I wrote a book called "Freedom from Speech" in 2014, thinking like, OK, this polarization thing is about to get much worse in 10 years.

And by the next year, I was shocked at how bad it had already gotten.


How much blame for the current situation should we put on parents for all this?

Because the parents, you know, they've gone from being overly indulgent to, what was it, the helicopter parents and now they're motormouth parents or lawmark (ph) where they clear everything in front of them.

LUKIANOFF: I say this as a parent. I know we get a lot of blame ourselves. But, honestly, a lot of people want to blame the students themselves.

But who is teaching them these things?

Who is teaching them the catastrophizing?

Who's teaching them the -- as we say in the book, the mental habits of anxious and depressed people and then being surprised that they're anxious and depressed?

Unfortunately, to a degree, it is to a degree parents and particularly the kind of parents who send their kids to some of these elite schools.

VAUSE: There is a wider reaction, I think, isn't there?

Because parents don't want to tell their kids anything bad. It's like every child wins a prize, even if they suck.

LUKIANOFF: Well, I think there is an "Emperor's New Clothes" problem going on here. I think actually a lot of parents know that the elimination of free time and crowding out free play, some of this kind of life or death, if you don't get into Princeton kind of attitude, I think a lot of parents know it's unhealthy and they know it's going to lead to something bad downstream but I don't know if they know yet that other parents are thinking that, too.

And what we hope this book will do is tell parents all over the country and across the pond that you're not alone, that other parents are saying that we've sensed we've done something wrong and --


LUKIANOFF: -- we think we can fix it.

VAUSE: Time for a bit of a course correction. One of the criticisms -- and there is not a lot of criticism of the book but I will put this to you. You make the argument, you come to the conclusion that all of this protectionism on college campuses is sort of leading to this increased level of anxiety and depression.

But aren't there plenty of other factors out there --


VAUSE: -- which could be responsible?

And one of the examples given is massive student debt in the U.S. standing at $1.5 trillion. That seems like a pretty good reason to be depressed and anxious.

LUKIANOFF: Yes. And that's something that I originally -- I talk about debt all the time and the fact it didn't make into it the final copy of the book, when somebody brought that criticism. Like you're totally right, that is a big factor.


LUKIANOFF: But we do talk about bureaucracy and we do talk about how the swelling of the campus bureaucracy has made things worse. So I always make the point that a less expensive version, more stripped down, more vigorous version of education could also be less stress inducing but also freer at the same time.

VAUSE: OK. Well, from everything I've managed to read out of the book so far, it's great and congratulations.


VAUSE: And have a great time tonight.

LUKIANOFF: Thank you so much for having me.

VAUSE: Pleasure. Well, one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history is dead. Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger was found dead in his cell Tuesday just a day after he was transferred to the prison in West Virginia. Details now from Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some of the details surrounding Whitey Bulger's death still has not been released. Prison officials his body was discovered around 8:20 yesterday morning. Staff immediately initiated lifesaving measures. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

Sources telling CNN that the 89-year old did not die from natural causes. Bulger had just recently been moved to that facility in West Virginia. Previously he was moved from another prison in Florida to a transfer facility in Oklahoma City.

The facility in West Virginia is a max security prison. Still, many questions about who was responsible for his murder and what was the motive.

History will show that Whitey was a notorious mobster who, at one time, according to the FBI, was an FBI informant. Bulger was serving two life sentences after being convicted in 2013 of a litany of crimes, including participating in 11 murders.

He was on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives List for 16 years until his arrest in 2011 in California. For 12 of those years, Bulger was second on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, behind Osama bin Laden.

Bulger is best known as the Irish American former organized crime boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston. On December 23rd, 1994, Bulger fled Boston and went into hiding after being tipped off by a former FBI handler about a pending indictment. Again, he remained at large for 16 years before he was finally caught.

Prosecutors indicted Bulger for murder based on grand jury testimony from his former associates. He lived a violent life and now his life has ended the same way -- Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Size matters and depending how you measures it, it's twice as big as the Statue of Liberty. When we return, India's new statue, the biggest in the world and the controversy surrounding it, which is almost as big.


[00:30:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour. Protests greeted President Trump in Pittsburgh, three days after 11 Jews were gunned down in the Synagogue.

The President and First Lady lit candles, laid flowers and stones at the memorials for the victims, while a block away, thousands of protesters gathered, some, calling on Donald Trump, to denounce white nationalism.

U.S. Secretary (INAUDIBLE) Defense are calling on all participants in Yemen Civil War to agree to a ceasefire, in the next 30 days. They're insisting on a swift end to air strikes and want all sides to support the U.N. Special Envoy to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

More U.S. troops are on the way to America's southern border to stop migrant caravans from Central America. The Pentagon says there will be an additional force over and above, the 5,200 troops already being sent. More than a thousand are now in place, in Texas.

India's Prime Minister is about to unveil the world's tallest statue. Officially called the State of Unity, it's about 180 meters tall, a version of freedom fighter Sardar Patel, greeted with -- credited rather, with uniting the country during its independence era.

The statue is also known as India's iron man, just as Patel was, but, it is not without controversy from where it stands, to its huge price tag, to the environmental damage done during construction.

Joining us now with more on this, New Delhi Bureau Chief, Nikhil Kumar, so Nikhil, where do most people come down on this? Is this a national symbol of global aspiration or do they think it's a vanity project to feed the prime minister's ego?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, John, it really depends on whom you ask. If you speak to members of the BJP, Prime Minister Modi's Party, people on the right wing of Indian politics.

Well, they say that this is a fitting tribute to a nationalist icon, an icon who, as you said, had a key role in unifying the various princely states that were around during the time of the colonial British, after independence into a unified independent state.

And that's what they're doing, that they're paying homage to this towering icon and hence, a towering statue is a fitting tribute. But the critics among them, many, many respected historical scholars, they point out that actually, Sardar Patel, was a member of -- excuse me --

The Congress Party, which today, sits in opposition, watched very closely with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, India's First Prime Minister. And that he actually belonged at the other end of the political spectrum. Mr. Nehru was the grandfather of Rajiv Gandhi, who is today, the President of the principle opposition to Mr. Modi.

So that, this is really a project by Mr. Modi, by the BJP, by people on the right, to appropriate an icon, a national icon, a very popular figure, who belongs at the other end of the political spectrum.

So that's kind of where we are. It depends on whom you ask. And as you said, there are all these questions about possible environmental damage, the costs, and so on, as well. John?

VAUSE: Let's talk about the final costs here, because depending on what you read. It's anywhere up to $400 million U.S. dollars. Yes, and it's a nice statue, but it just seems hard to justify that kind of spending in a country where 70 percent of the population doesn't have access to a toilet.

KUMAR: Well, many critics are asking questions just like that. They're asking that, you know, when Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, he promised during that campaign to herald a, sort of, economic renaissance.

That this country which has had many problems, over many, many years, that despite growth, there haven't been enough jobs for the many young people who come out of India's universities and colleges every year, as many, depending which estimate, you look at, 12 to 13 million who need jobs.

But the country doesn't generate enough. Mr. Modi promised to focus on that, to focus on development, that that's where money like this, that's where efforts like this, should be focused. But, again, the BJP turns around and says well, look, you can have that, and that's important, and that is still our focus and priority.

But this is a project that Mr. Modi, his allies say, has been talking about since before he became prime minister, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat State. And that it is fitting to pay tribute to a man who helped unify the country, so there is that division.

[00:35:07] And many, many people are asking those questions, that, why not put this effort on development, on making sure that many people in this country who are still very, very poor, who are stuck in poverty, many people who are looking for jobs, that they can realize their potential that this money goes to helping them, not in building a statue. John?

VAUSE: Also, it seems odd that there was -- what, thousands of workers, you know, employed around the clock, 24/7, to get this thing done. But we'll save that for next hour, Nikhil. We'll talk then. Thank you.

Closer to the sun than ever before, and still moving closer. What NASA hopes its record-setting spacecraft can teach us, when we come back.


VAUSE: NASA's Parker Solar Probe is now closer to the sun than any other man-made object has ever been, and it's moving closer. The Probe broke the previous distance record on Monday. Now, 43 million kilometers from the sun, and will reach 25 million kilometers from the surface, next week.

(INAUDIBLE) scientists have a better understanding of how the sun works. And that's probably a good thing. We'll see all the details now, with some record-breaking mission, Mike Wall, Senior Writer for He is live with us from San Francisco in California.

OK, Mike, thanks for taking the time and chatting away. Look, a couple of records have been set by the Parker Probe, closest to the sun, as well as, speed. Right now, moving faster than 150,000 miles per hour, it's about 250,000 kilometers an hour, NASA declaring it the fastest human-made object relative to the sun.

Explain what do they mean by that part there, relative to the sun, why is that important?

MICHAEL WALL, SENIOR WRITER, SPACE.COM: Well, yes, because there are a lot of frames of reference that they could use throughout the solar system. You could also use relative to us here, on Earth, and that would be a different measurement. But they're talking about relative to the sun.

And it's an important distinction because it's possible that there is a faster spacecraft relative to the Earth, and that's probably NASA's -- like a Juno Jupiter Probe, which got a little bit faster when it was being sucked in by that big planet's gravity, a couple of years ago, when it arrived there.

But yes, Parker Solar Probe will, like, soon top that speed record if it hasn't already, the whole relative to Earth, relative to the sun. It will own all of those records before too much longer.

VAUSE: Yes. It's going to be about, what, 400,000 miles per hour.

WALL: Miles per hour, yes. It's going to -- it's going to go really, really fast, yes.

VAUSE: which is incredible, when you think about it, still way short of the speed of light, though, by next Monday. Let's talk about next week, though. It's expected to make its first close approach to the sun, to go where no man-made thing has gone before. And this is when that thermal protection system will really come into play. That includes a special heat shield.

Here is how CNN describes it. The shield will prevent the core of the spacecraft from being exposed to temperatures reaching nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, or roughly, 1,370 degrees Celsius.

Provided the shield does its job, NASA believes the instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which, quickly, do the math (INAUDIBLE) it's about 27 degrees Celsius, I think.

[00:40:16] OK, the question is, what happens if the shield doesn't do its job? Is there a backup or is this just game over?

WALL: No, if the shield doesn't do its job, and the science instruments are exposed to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, then that's the end. That's the end of the mission. They won't be able to function. They'll melt. Yes, they're pretty confident this is going to work. They put it through all -- just like a bunch of testing here, on Earth, I mean, to the extent that, like, you can test those conditions.

But, yes, this is -- it's a real trial by fire, and NASA proves it on the actual mission. So, I mean, yes, they're confident that it will work, but on these space missions, you may never know anything for sure until it actually happens.

VAUSE: One thing that fascinates me, we know that, you know, it's being sent to gather data and to find out solar winds and solar storms, and all that kind of stuff is important. But, it seems to me that the technology which is being used to simply get to this point, is far more exciting and far more interesting.

WALL: Yes, yes, it is really interesting. I mean, this is -- this is a mission that should get people really excited. I mean, we're -- this thing is actually going to fly through the, like, outer atmosphere of the sun, where temperatures are just unbelievably high.

And so, this is something that we have designed, I mean, engineers have built a plan to actually fly a spacecraft through the atmosphere of the sun to survive and make measurements. It is really fascinating, and it's something that -- yes, I mean, we all should -- yes, should be celebrating which is why I'm glad we're talking about it right now.

VAUSE: It just seems -- I don't want the say, but sort of flying under the radar, a little bit.

WALL: Yes.

VAUSE: I want to finish off with -- I read about this gravity assist movement that I did fairly early on. It passed by Venus, as the orbits of the spacecraft and Venus converged toward the same point, Parker Solar Probe slipped in front of the planet, allowing Venus' gravity - relatively small by celestial standards - to twist its path and change its speed. That's coming out from NASA.

That sounds like a really complicated maneuver.

WALL: Yes. And this is something, I mean, if you ever didn't realize how, sort of, smart aerospace engineers mission planners are, there are going to be, like, six more of these Venus flybys to, kind of, tweak the orbit, so the Parker Solar Probe can get closer and closer to the sun over the next seven years.

So, they figure all this stuff out to a T. They know exactly what the gravity is going to do, how much it's going to change the orbit over years and years from now, such that they can get to within about 3.8 million miles of the sun's surface in 2025 on the final flyby.

They have all that calculated out based on these gravities, these flybys, and yes, it's really phenomenal. I mean, all the engineering and the mission planning that goes into something like this, is just unbelievable.

VAUSE: These are really, really smart people. I just (INAUDIBLE) as a kid. You know, they went around the sun.

WALL: Yes.

VAUSE: Mike, thank you so much.

WALL: Sure thing. Thank you.

VAUSE: Cheers. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause, stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is next. You're watching CNN.


[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)