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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Soon: U.S. Attempts First Moon Landing In 50 Plus Years; Report Shows Evidence Of Systematic Sexual Assaults By Hamas; Report Shows Evidence Of Systematic Sexual Assaults By Hamas; Possible Navigation Issues Ahead Of Moon Landing Attempt; Wendy Williams Has Aphasia And Dementia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Walk us through what we're about to see.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, I mean, this is the first time in my lifetime that an American made spacecraft has attempted to land on the surface of the moon. It's been more than 50 years, so I'm excited to see it. This is what you call the Nova C class of lunar landers. And the one that you're talking about, the one that's in orbit around the moon right now, is called Odysseus or Odie for short.

And so, this spacecraft has been, it launched about a week ago on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It has traveled a quarter of a million miles to the lunar orbit. And now, this engine right here is essentially the star of the show over the next few hours. It is a 3D printed engine. It breathes both liquid methane and liquid oxygen, the first spacecraft in orbit to ever do that.

And this engine is required to slow Odie down to just 1 meter per second and make what's called a soft landing or a controlled landing on the surface of the moon. And to do that, I mean, Jake, just think about it, it's like hitting a golf ball in New York City and having it land in a specific hole in Los Angeles. That's what it's like to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon. And so in terms of timing, this is what it looks like.

Starting at 06:12 p.m., you've got the power descent initiation. That's when that engine is really going to fire almost at full powered. Then at 06:22 you have the hazard detection and avoidance. So this spacecraft is totally automated, so it relies upon cameras and sensors to guide the algorithm for its navigation system and find a safe place to land on the surface of the moon. It's got to watch out for craters, boulders and big dead volcanoes.

At 06:23, this is when it gets really critical. It's going to begin that vertical descent and then the landing at 06:24 p.m. Jake, if all goes according to plan, you're going to have to wait 15 seconds before we know for sure if it has been a success or a failure. So, the folks that are operating it at intuitive machines, the company behind this lunar lander, they say those are going to be the longest 15 seconds of their life, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Kristin, where on the moon is Odie going to attempt to land?

FISHER: So it's going to land in a place that no spacecraft has ever been before. It's going to land in the south pole of the moon. I'll get to why that is a big deal in just a second. But you can see, you know, all the Apollo missions, Apollo 11 right here landed in the sea of tranquility, that's a much easier spot to land in. There's a lot more sunlight, a lot fewer craters. The south pole of the moon, much more treacherous, it's darker for a lot of periods of time, there's also a lot more craters.

But, Jake, in terms of the significance, this is a place where scientists believe there is ice water, that, of course, could be vital for astronauts to drink, to use for making food in a future lunar base, because NASA wants to build a permanent human presence on the surface of the moon. And it's especially significant, Jake, because that's also where China wants to build a lunar base. So, we're really in the middle of this second space race right now. And both the United States and China want to build bases right there.

TAPPER: So, it's been more than 50 years since the Apollo missions to the moon, but it's still incredibly difficult to land there.

FISHER: Yes, it is. And you look at the track record, I mean, you can see failure is an option for lunar landings. More than half of all lunar landings have failed, including three just this last year. In April, a private company, ispace, its HAKUTO lander, crash landed on the moon. In August, Russia, this is a government spacecraft, it crashed into the moon.

And then just last month, an American made spacecraft by Astrobotic, it failed just a few minutes after liftoff. So three in less than a year, Odysseus trying to correct that record. And then the why, I mean, it's frustratingly terrestrial, Jake, the reasons why it all boiled down to money. The Apollo program had hundreds of billions of dollars of 1960s dollars, 4 percent of all federal spending from the U.S. government. Today, NASA gets just 0.4 percent of all federal spending. And these commercial companies, Jake, get even less.

We're talking about just $100 million. That's what, you know, Hollywood tries -- that's the budget for, like a big Hollywood movie. So, the other reasons, experience. The people in mission control have never done this before. All the Apollo mission controllers are now long gone or past in their retirement, so to speak.


And then just the technical issues, the distance, it's really far, and the terrain, as I mentioned, really tough as well, Jake. This is still just a tremendously difficult thing to do, even though humans first did it more than half a century ago.

TAPPER: Yes, the year I was born, 1969, right? Kristin, stick around. I want to bring in CNN Aerospace Analyst Miles O'Brien and Planetary Scientists and Author Jim Bell, who also works with NASA on its Mars rover missions.

Miles, how significant is this moment we're in right now, the US, attempting something it has not in 50 years?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AEROSPACE ANALYST: Well, just that fact is worth pausing and thinking about for a few moments. I must confess I am a little bit ambivalent about it. I wish we had been back sooner, but a couple of generations have passed. We don't have the institutional memory. So we're kind of relearning how to land on the moon.

This time around, the goal is to stay there, to build an outpost, to have a sustained presence on the moon, and ultimately use it as a launch pad, metaphorically, at least, for missions to go to Mars. We have to learn as humans how to live on an outpost like this before we can imagine going to Mars. And it's a lot easier to do that when you're waiting 15 seconds for a radio signal as opposed to many minutes. So, this is a big moment, and it's pivotal for NASA as it thinks about its Artemis campaign to go back to the moon and stay there.

TAPPER: And, Jim, how does today's mission compare to what NASA and other companies are trying to accomplish on Mars? I know NASA has a mantra of moon to Mars. How does this all tie in together?

JIM BELL, THE PLANETARY SOCIETY: Absolutely. And everything that's done in the robotic exploration of our solar system, the moon and Mars, is going to be feeding forward into human exploration. You know, think back to the 60s, it was the rangers, it was the surveyors that paved the way for the Apollo landings by those astronauts. And today we're seeing landers on the moon. We're seeing landers and rovers on Mars, you know, finding out what the environment is like, determining what it's going to be like for those spacecraft land there, for the spacesuits that they have to operate in for the weather on Mars and the environment they'll have to be in, the kinds of soil that these landers will have touch down onto the moon. You know, this is really kind of foundational work for eventual human exploration of the moon and Mars.

TAPPER: And Kristin, you were able to ask the CEO of Intuitive about why now? And he hinted that global competition plays a big role in this.

FISHER: Yes, I mean, the whole reason the Apollo program happened was because of U.S. competition with Russia. That was -- or the Soviet Union back then. That was the first space race. We are now in a second space race, this time with China. And so, I asked Steve Altemus, the CEO of Intuitive Machines, what exactly he thought about it, and he said, you know, hey, I think that competition in this case can be a good thing.

TAPPER: Interesting. Let's roll that clip.


STEPHEN ALTEMUS, CO-FOUNDER, PRESIDENT & CEO, INITUITIVE MACHINES: In the previous administrations, we've actually heard the words that we've been to the moon, been there, done that. Well, there's so much more to do on the moon and learn on the moon about living and working in space. If it takes geopolitical tension to drive that to fruition, you know, that's OK. And to be a company like Intuitive Machines in the forefront of landing on the moon and think of our competitor is China, that's crazy.


FISHER: And you know, look at what China has been able to accomplish just over the last decade, they have already put three vehicles on the surface of the moon. The U.S., as I've mentioned, hasn't done that since 1972.

TAPPER: Miles, what do you make of today's landing spot? Kristin noticed that this is in an area that China wants to develop its lunar base on, near the south pole of the moon. How big of a global fight, hopefully not actual fight, but at least competition is there going to be in space in the coming years?

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's all about the ice baby, to take a little riff from a bad rap. But yes, water ice was discovered there long after the Apollo astronauts left, and that changed the way scientists thought about the moon and of course, where you'd want to set up a camp. Not only is it important for humans to have water just to survive, but if you think about what water is, hydrogen and oxygen, guess what? That's rocket fuel. And you can take, with a little bit of work, and turn that H20 into something useful to launch back off the moon to other places.

Interestingly, this particular lander is the first to land using methane and oxygen fuel, as opposed to hypergolic fuels, hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide to get technical. But if you think about methane and liquid oxygen, that too, can be produced on the surface. So, this is all part of thinking long term, which was never the case in Apollo. It was always a sprint, plant a flag, leave some footprints, and say you beat the Soviets. This time around, the goal is to stay.


TAPPER: And, Jim, you work closely with the cameras on board, NASA's Mars rovers. What can you tell us about the cameras on board Odysseus or Odie?

BELL: Yes, yes, Jake. There's seven or eight cameras on this lander, and I'm assuming that very shortly we'll see some of them fired up as the lander heads down closer to the surface. And hopefully we'll be able to monitor that. The team in Houston at Intuitive Machines will be able to monitor that from some of those cameras and see the surface get closer.

One of the ones that's most exciting to me is there's a small little mini satellite that gets ejected out of the lander, a small satellite, I believe, built by students at Embry Riddle University that gets ejected out of the lander that has cameras on it, and as it's falling to the surface, it's taking, you know, video or pictures of the lander landing on the moon. I don't know if we'll get that live feed, but hopefully it'll all survive and we'll get that down eventually. But lots of cameras, and so this should be hopefully a really exciting visual event for NASA and for Intuitive Machines and for commercial space writ large. It's a big day for commercial space.

TAPPER: So, commercial space, Intuitive, and then there's also the government, NASA --


TAPPER: -- how important are these public private partnerships when it comes to exploring space for the United States?

FISHER: They have already become absolutely critical, and today's mission actually plays a big part in NASA's mission, the Artemis program, to return American astronauts to the moon now by 2026. So, what they're doing is they're essentially outsourcing all of the robotic missions to private companies. They're saying, hey, here's $100 million, go do this fast.

Eventually, if this mission is successful, they want them to use this to bring up rovers for the astronauts. So it's kind of a supply mission eventually for the Artemis astronauts. And again, that should be happening in 2026.

TAPPER: All right, Kristin Fisher, Miles O'Brien, Jim Bell, thanks so much. And keep it here for coverage of the moon landing. Ahead, I'm going to talk with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson about the significance of this mission.

And coming up next on THE LEAD, a brand new decision today from the judge overseeing Trump's civil fraud case, where he's been ordered to pay $355 million. Stay with us.



And we have some breaking news for you and our law and justice lead. The Austin American Statesman newspaper reports that several law enforcement officers who responded to the 2022 Uvalde school mass shooting must now testify before a grand jury investigating the botched police response, adding that in person testimonies are expected to start next week. As you may recall, 19 children and two teachers were killed while police waited outside for more than an hour before ultimately killing the shooter. CNN Shimon Prokupecz joins us now.

And, Shimon, you've been covering the fallout from this horrific massacre from the beginning. Do you know who exactly is being ordered to testify?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of the reports are indicating, Jake, that it's the officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, some of the first responders, as well as other officers, perhaps from the Uvalde Police Department. Remember, there were some 376 officers that responded to the scene that day, perhaps more than they even needed. And so it could be any number of officers, some of the first initial responders from any of these agencies that could be called before this grand jury. And what this really does is it's significant because it gives the grand jury an opportunity to ask these officers questions. And of course, what's being investigated here is whether or not the response here, the lack of response by officers and the fact that there was no leadership here, whether or not it rises to the level of criminality.

And that is something the DA said that she would do, that she would be presenting this case before the grand jury. And finally now, the process is underway, Jake.

TAPPER: How does the U.S. Department of Justice's incident review that came out last month on this, how does that play into this, if at all?

PROKUPECZ: Well, certainly it was scathing, right? And it lent a lot of credibility and a lot of -- it substantiated a lot of what the family felt and what others felt, that there just was not a good, adequate response here. But it should not play any role in the grand jury because it was essentially a civil investigation. It was not a criminal investigation. But I think publicly it certainly helps the DA and what she's trying to do here.

TAPPER: Have any of the victims' families reacted to this major development?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So I spoke to one of the victims' family, a survivor, her mother, and she actually told me that they're learning of this news through these public reports. They've had no contact with the DA about this, but they're excited because they feel like the process for accountability at least is underway. And the idea that grand jurors, that someone is going to be able to ask these officers questions about the failed response they feel is very significant. And certainly this mother is very excited by this news, Jake.

TAPPER: Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much.

Also just in our law and justice lead, the judge overseeing Trump's civil fraud case today denied Trump's request to delay finalizing the $355 million order. CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now.

Kara, what exactly did the judge say today? And how soon will Trump have to make this giant payment?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, so the judge denying Trump's request to delay the finalizing of this judgment. You know, as you recall, on Friday, the judge issued the order, but it doesn't go into effect until the judgment is entered into the court docket. Now, Trump's lawyers had asked the judge to delay it another 30 days, saying this so they could have an orderly process given the, quote, "magnitude of this judgment." But the judge saying that he didn't see any basis for doing so. And so he indicated to the parties today, both the New York attorney general's office and Trump's lawyers, that he would enter this judgment today.

[17:20:10] Now, we can see it on the docket, but it hasn't uploaded just yet. But this means that from this point, once it is officially entered, Trump will have 30 days to appeal the decision and put up the $355 million plus nearly $100 million interest or post a bond to that effect, unless they can work out a different arrangement. So he'll have about 30 days to get that in order.

Now, as another practical matter, part of this judgment is that there will be a ban on both Trump from running a business in New York, and also on Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who were also found liable for fraud. They can't serve as directors or officers of a New York business for two years. That will also go into an effect. It's not clear who will then take the reins of the Trump Organization. I reached out to their spokespeople, they have not gotten back to me today, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kara Scannell, thanks so much.

Coming up, a brand new report on the war between Israel and Hamas revealing horrific actions by the terrorist group on October 7 are much more deliberate and systemic than first believed.



TAPPER: Before we begin on this next topic in our world lead, I want to give a warning to our viewers, the following report will contain some disturbing content regarding sexual violence. One month after the horrific October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, we reported on multiple firsthand accounts of Hamas terrorists raping and sexually assaulting Israeli civilians during the attack. We also noted the lack of international outrage. In January, a survivor of the Nova music festival told us that he saw with his own eyes Hamas terrorists laughing as they gang raped a woman, then killing her with a knife. And just last week, Sheryl Sandberg joined us to discuss her new documentary, which profiles a freed hostage and horrific details of other hostages suffering sexual abuse, perhaps even right this minute.

And now, a brand new report from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel shows that Hamas terrorized Israeli civilians by carrying out brutal sexual assaults, quote, "systematically and deliberately," unquote.

Joining us now, Orit Sulitzeanu, the CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers of Israel.

Orit, the report says, quote, "Numerous testimonies and pieces of disclosed and classified information present a clear picture of identical patterns of action repeated in each of the attack zones, the Nova Festival, private homes in the Gaza envelope kibbutzim, and IDF bases," unquote. It's been more than four months since the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel. How difficult was it to gather testimonies and evidence of these rapes and sexual assaults?

ORIT SULITZEANU, CEO, THE ASSOCIATION OF RAPE CRISIS CENTERS IN ISRAEL: I want to explain what was our methodology. And your question is very well -- since seven of October attack, immediately, one day afterwards, we at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers already got information about survivors from the attacks and about the fact that sexual violence indeed has occurred. This information was like a trickle. You know, in the beginning, nobody in Israel even imagined the truth, the reality that this was something intensive.

In the beginning, many Israelis thought maybe this rape or an abuse sexual violence happened in one place, or it was a sporadic thing. This is what we thought in the beginning. But every day when we started to get more information, we understood this is something different. By the way, I must say we never, never, never had in Israel sexual violence used as a weapon of war and we never guessed or believed it could happen. So what we did, we started to collect all the information we have.

First of all, information from public resources. There were many very well made journalistic investigations. We also made interviews, and we also collected information that we have which is not public. I want to say one thing, one of our missions or thoughts is not to run after victims. You know as a journalist, everybody wants to hear firsthand story, but this is really not ethical in this time of the thing, because a woman who has suffered gang rape by Hamas terrorists now has to rehabilitate this horrific, sadistic trauma.

TAPPER: Israel believes that there are still about 100 hostages in Gaza that are still alive. The report says that Hamas terrorists are likely still raping and sexually assaulting hostages. Even if the hostages do eventually come home safe, and obviously we all hope they do, how does one even begin to recover from something so awful?

SULITZEANU: You know what, it's a very hard question. And also everybody, you know, in the country is so worried now because, you know, Israel is such a small country, everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows someone who knows a hostage or a hostage family. So we all feel it's like our family.

How to recover? It's hard. It depends on your character. It depends on your surrounding. Of course, they will get therapy, but it will take a long time.


And, you know, many questions are asked. Even today, the hostages who have returned, some of them told stories of what happened to them or what happened to hostages they saw over there. It's not easy. It's -- I won't say it's easy because, you know, my work as an NGO that helps victims of sexual violence in Israel, and they met so many survivors. Some of them succeed to rehabilitate and others not. You know, you can never guess, but what happened this time in Israel is I think it's one of the brutal, sadistic things that ever happened in the world in the recent decades.

TAPPER: Yes. The report also states that some of these rapes were carried out in front of an audience of the victim's partners or family or friends, intended to, quote, increase pain and humiliation of all present. Do you think that these Hamas terrorists were instructed to do that?

SULITZEANU: OK. I think so. And I want to explain why. You know, we are an NGO. We don't get money from the government of Israel. We only get money from philanthropy, from people who really care to combat sexual violence. So this is, first of all, very important to say, because we are an NGO, that we are dedicated to help survivors. This is our mission in the world. And when we started to collect the information, we didn't know what will come out of the report. But as we saw the macro picture, this is what came out, because we see that in every terrorist scene, every crime scene, the same methodology happened. There were body parts cut off, gang rapes, putting grenades in women's, sorry, genitals. I really don't want to be too graphic because it's very horrific. But it didn't happen in one place, one spot. It happened systematically.

So when you look at it in a macro level, you understand that they got instructions to do that, you know, as we learned in Israel, and as some of the terrorists that were caught and captivated by the Israeli IDF, they spoke and they said, were sent to this place, and the other said, we were sent to that kibbutz. But you see from all the information that the same things happened place after place. You know, so you understand that it's very logical that this is what they got a directive to harm, to shoot, to mutilate, and in this way harm the Jewish people in Israel. Yes. So they got directives to do this horrific, sadistic, brutal massacre.

TAPPER: What do you say to the pro-Palestinian activists out there who are skeptical of all this, who say it's a lie, it's all being used to justify a brutal campaign by the IDF in Gaza? What's your response to them?

SULITZEANU: First of all, again, you know, I'm not in this kind of politics. I take care of victims. But I do have answer. What happened in the 7th October happened one day afterwards, as I said, we, because we deal with rape, so, of course, the community in Israel that deals with these kind of things is very close to us. And as I said, we got immediately, the day after information that these things happen, you know. And the war started only because of that.

Nobody, I have to say, as an Israeli and as a mother of a child who is now in the army, and all of my friends, many of them have children in the army. We don't want our children to die. We don't want wars. We want peace. I want peace. And if Palestinian activists deny that, I think it's very dangerous, you know, can condemn Israel for its politics. You can condemn Israel for many things. But I'm sure that every person who sits there one day, Saturday morning, in his house, 7 o'clock in the morning, just wakes up and drinks a coffee, and suddenly a terrorist goes inside, shoots, mutilates and kills.

The sense of security of yourself is totally just breaks down. So and, you know, all of us, I saw, because I wanted to see what happened. I wanted to see all the videos and the clips that the Hamas photoed. And I looked at them. You could see they photoed what they did, you know.

TAPPER: Yes. SULITZEANU: There's a lot of footage, you know, but they did themselves. And very quickly, it's all in telegram. You can see up until today, many, many horrific things. So I have to say to the pro- Palestinians, I really respect, if you're pro-Palestinian, you could be pro-Palestinian, I'm pro-Israeli. You can respect whoever you want to respect, but don't look at this horrific slaughter and just deny it, you know. It happened, and the terrorist group that did that doesn't -- is not legitimate because these are crimes against humanity. And really, I think you have to put politics aside when you look at this horrific massacre of civilians of little girls, you know.



SULITZEANU: It's something unbelievable. I don't think many people understand that, kill to come to Israel, go around the burnt houses in the kibbutzim and start to hear the hostages what they say. Many people don't understand what's going here, unfortunately.

TAPPER: All right, Orit Sulitzeanu, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

SULITZEANU: Thank you.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.


TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news. In our Out of This World Lead, we are learning that the lunar lander which is scheduled to try and land on the moon in just minutes is experiencing some possible issues. This is the United States first attempt at a Moon landing in more than 50 years. And joining us now to discuss, none other than former Florida Senator and current NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson. Administrator Nelson thanks so much for joining us. So what can you tell us about what's going on?


BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, it's white knuckled time, their ability to land is not with a radar, but with light pulses, called Lidar. And it is on the blink.

TAPPER: It's not working.

NELSON: It's not working. But they are trying to do since there are six NASA instruments, experiments on board. One of those experiments is a Lidar. And they're trying to patch the NASA Lidar to the spacecraft and it's control system. And so this is really one of those white knuckle times right at the last minute.

TAPPER: If they cannot patch it, then it crashes?

NELSON: They would keep working the problem, they would not at 6:10 there to do a control descent. They would wave that descent off for one more try at about 8:30 this evening. But that would be the last chance that they would have to land.

TAPPER: Have you ever seen anything like this before?

NELSON: Well, everything that we do is right on the edge. One of the greatest success stories ever was Apollo 13, when we had three astronauts on the way to the Moon and the explosion occurred. And real time, they figured out how eventually to get those three astronauts back to Earth. And that was white knuckle time for about four days.

TAPPER: Right.

NELSON: That turned out to be one of the great success stories in NASA. This is an uncrewed lander. It's a commercial lander. So it's not a NASA lander. But that's the whole purpose of having this is we can pay for the services a lot cheaper than doing it ourselves, send our own instruments on these landers. Let them be scouts for us before we actually land with astronauts on the Moon.

TAPPER: Do we know that there is the ability to patch through this experimental Lidar NASA experiment that's on the ship into the whatever you call it the mainframe of the ship? Is that possible is -- do they know how -- that they can definitely do that?

NELSON: It -- to my knowledge it's not something that they practice. So this is real time trying to figure out if they can do that. I think they'll be able to patch it. And then the question is, can they get it integrated into the software for the landing system. And we're going to know that pretty soon.

TAPPER: The light pulse radar that you call Lidar? Do we know why Odie's Lidar went out?

NELSON: I don't have that information.

TAPPER: We just know that there was an attempt to patch through the NASA experimental Lidar into Odie's mainframe to make it work. 6:10 was when you were hoping this would happen. You said 8:30 is the --

NELSON: Would be the next landing attempt, approximately 8:30. I don't know the specific time. But in other words, they'd get one more chance if they do not start the descent burn at 6:10. But let's hope that this might be one of those miracles. On the other hand, you know, this is a high risk operation.

TAPPER: Right.

NELSON: We said on the outset, we'll be lucky if half of these commercials landers, called the Eclipse Program, we'll be lucky if half of them work. If half of them work, then we've got all of this information from the surface of the Moon. In this particular case from the South Pole, where we want to land astronauts because we think water is there. If there's water, then you've got hydrogen and oxygen, you've got rocket fuel.

TAPPER: So just to just to recap the light pulse radar or Lidar in Odie's not working, there's a hope that the Lidar experiment that NASA has on Odie can be passed through onto Odie's mainframe so that it can be -- so that it can work so it can land. 6:10 is when the descent would begin if they're confident they can do it this time. After that the next time that the descent can begin is at 8:30 about p.m. Eastern Time. What happens if they're not ready to do it at 8:30? Is that it, it will crash? Or it will just like fly out into space? What happens?


NELSON: It's my understanding that's your last chance. And whether that eventually degrades into a crash on the Moon or out into space, I don't know the answer to that.

TAPPER: The worst case -- and just to remind people, there's nobody on the ship. So there's no -- there will be no loss of life. But we don't know whether if it doesn't work, it would end up just crashing on the Moon because it's caught in the Moon's orbit, or if it would just we just lose it forever.

NELSON: Correct. And think about now this is the whole program of us going back to the Moon. We're going to a different part of the Moon. It's not that --

TAPPER: The South Pole? Yes.

NELSON: We're going to -- if this is the Moon, and this is the South Pole, remember, the sunlight comes in at an angle. So there are crevasses, and there are pock marks from big, big asteroids hitting. And so a lot of that South Pole is in shadows. This is all the more why we wanted to send these commercial spacecraft scouts to scout out the area before we land astronauts, because when we do, you can't be a little off the mark.

TAPPER: Right.

NELSON: Because you might tip into one of those big craters.

TAPPER: What happens to the hope to get people back on the Moon, men and women back on the Moon if Odie doesn't land successfully, if this doesn't work?

NELSON: That will not affect the human landings, it will not affect our launch next year, of a human crew around the Moon. And two years from now, it will not affect the landing of the first time back on the Moon after a half century.

TAPPER: When the Apollo missions were going on. Spending was about I think on NASA and space exploration was about maybe 4 percent of the federal budget.

NELSON: Correct.

TAPPER: Now it's less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the federal budget?

NELSON: It's about a half a percent.

TAPPER: Half a percent of the federal budget. As long as you have the microphone here, is there anything you want to say to the people who make these decisions, whether at the White House or in Congress?

NELSON: This is part of who we are. We are by nature explorers, adventurers. We're going back to the Moon, not just to go to the Moon, we're going back to the Moon, to learn to live, to experiment, to invent, to create in order to go further. And that is to Mars and beyond with human astronauts.

TAPPER: All right, well, fingers crossed for a successful landing and a successful patch through of the NASA Lidar experiment to Odie's mainframe. Administrator Nelson, it's great to have you here. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain to us all what's going on.

NELSON: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.




WENDY WILLIAMS, TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you. Thank you. Uh, I know. Thank you. I missed you too.


TAPPER: And our Pop Culture Lead, that was talk show host Wendy Williams back in 2019 coming back after a medical leave. And today the care team for the beloved daytime T.V. star announced that Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with progressive aphasia, and dementia. That's in addition to a number of other serious medical conditions that Williams has otherwise been very open about on her show for years. CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister has the latest on today's revelations. Elizabeth, what did we learn today about this sad story?

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is such a sad story, Jake. And today we have learned that Wendy received this diagnosis last year in 2023. Now the timing of this diagnosis being publicly revealed is interesting because this weekend, Wendy Williams has a documentary coming out on Lifetime. She is an executive producer on this documentary.

Now we have to remember in 2022, amid her health struggles, Wendy was put under a court order and financial guardianship. Now, just yesterday before this public diagnosis, Jake, I spoke with Wendy Williams' niece. She tells me that they are very close. She tells me that Wendy is currently in an inpatient facility receiving care for her cognitive issues. I asked her how she's doing. But take a look.


ALEX FINNIE, WENDY WILLIAMS' NIECE: What I can tell you is that she sounds great. I talked to her only when she calls me. If I miss a call, then, oh, well, I have to wait for her to call me back at some point. But she has been wherever she is now, she's been there for a few months and she's sounding good. The last time I spoke with my aunt was I would say a few days ago, when she called me. She is doing well. She sounds healthy. It's a huge departure from what people are going to see in this documentary.


WAGMEISTER: So as you heard there, the family says that she is doing better, Jake. But they also have concerns about this guardianship and they say that they have been totally shut out from it.

TAPPER: And you were a frequent guest on the Wendy Williams Show. In fact, you filled in as a guest host. What was that environment like?

WAGMEISTER: You know, Jake, there was only one Wendy Williams. There is only one Wendy Williams. And she was incredible to work with. Now it was no secret that she was dealing with these health issues, which is the reason why I was brought in to fill in as a guest host because as we know, Wendy was not on her show for the entire last season. But it really speaks to the power of Wendy and her unmatched talent and her fan base.

They kept the show on for an entire year, the Wendy Williams show on T.V. without Wendy Williams. And eventually they ultimately had to cancel it and now we know why.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you so much with that sad news.


The latest we're hearing on the possible navigation issues with that Moon lander Odie, that's next.


TAPPER: We are getting ready for a big show on deck tomorrow here at THE LEAD by big guest California Governor Gavin Newsom. That conversation is part of my Homeless in America series, that's tomorrow on THE LEAD starting at 4 o'clock Eastern. We'll also talk about politics, of course. Then on Sunday night, look out for my new CNN original series, United States of Scandal.

This weekend, we're going to take a look at the shocking story of John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential hopeful. His wife had cancer. He had a baby with his girlfriend all while he was running for president, Rielle Hunter, the former girlfriend. We're going to look at the scandal through her eyes. Check out his story Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

Coming up next in the Situation Room, the latest timing on that mission to Mars, the attempted landing is still about 10 minutes or so away, 20 minutes or so away. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson just told me that the lunar lander which is named Odysseus or Odie is experiencing some serious navigation issues. They're attempting the solution with experimental technology on board. We should know within the next 10 or so minutes whether they're going to be able to try a landing in the next hour then of course, if not, around 8:30 will be their last chance, the administrator said.


This is the first time the U.S. has tried to Moon landing in more than 50 years. This one, part of a public private partnership between NASA and intuitive machines. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.