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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biggest Space Stories This Year: Exploration, Innovation, Discovery; Southwest CEO Apologizes For Thousands Of Canceled Flights; Luka Doncic Makes NBA History With 60-Point Performance. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 28, 2022 - 05:30   ET




KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Number nine may look and sound like basic boot camp for soldiers or sailors --


FISHER (on camera): -- but these are Guardians in the United States Space Force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is still the United States military. This is not space camp.

FISHER (on camera): Twenty twenty-two marked the first-ever Guardian- only basic training led entirely by space Force instructors -- a major milestone for the first new branch of the armed services in more than 70 years.

Coming in at number eight, the United States becoming the first country to announce a ban on anti-satellite weapons tests.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These tests are dangerous and we will not conduct them.

FISHER (on camera): The U.S., China, Russia, and India have all carried out these types of tests in the past, which involves firing a missile from Earth and striking a satellite in space creating massive debris fields.

This year, astronauts aboard the International Space Station repeatedly dodged debris from Russia's most recent test of this type of weapon.

NAVY PILOT 1: The wind is 120 knots to the west.

NAVY PILOT 2: Look at that thing, dude.

WILD (on camera): The truth is out there for our seventh space story of the year and in 2022, Congress pushed for answers. For the first time in more than 50 years, a public hearing on Capitol Hill about UFOs or UAPs.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): UAPs are unexplained -- it's true -- but they are real. They need to be investigated and many threats they pose need to be mitigated.

FISHER (on camera): Though the hearing did not answer if these UAPs are classified U.S. technology, the work of a foreign adversary, or extraterrestrial life.

The deputy director of Naval Intelligence did confirm the authenticity of two videos taken by Navy pilots and he described the UAPs in them as some kind of real, physical object that gets very close to military pilots and bases.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Is this one of the phenomena that we can't explain?

SCOTT BRAY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NAVAL INTELLIGENCE: I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is.

FISHER (on camera): At number six, Moscow threatening to pull out of the International Space Station after the U.S. sanctioned Russia for invading Ukraine.

Dmitry Rogozin, the now-former head of Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, threatening to end its nearly three decades-long partnership with NASA, even going so far as to release a video implying that Moscow might abandon a NASA astronaut that Russia was responsible for bringing back to Earth.

The bluster prompted a bitter Twitter war between Rogozin and one of NASA's most famous former astronauts, Scott Kelly, who, later this year celebrated Rogozin's ouster and the space station's ability to survive despite the conflict roughly 250 miles below.

SCOTT KELLY, RETIRED ASTRONAUT: And when you have a guy like him that behaves like a child on Twitter and threatens nuclear war, I was really, really happy to see him go.

FISHER (on camera): Our fifth space story of the year also came to the aid of Ukraine -- SpaceX's Starlink satellites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignition and liftoff of Starlink.

FISHER (on camera): When Russia knocked out cell phone and internet service to much of the country, a Ukrainian government official begged SpaceX's Elon Musk for help. Well, Musk responded with a tweet that would forever change the battlefield. "Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route."

Well, since then, Starlink has become an indispensable tool for both Ukrainian civilians and the Ukrainian military. But after months of providing the lifesaving internet service for free, documents obtained by CNN show that SpaceX told the Pentagon that it can no longer continue to fund Starlink terminals in Ukraine indefinitely. Now, Musk later backtracked, saying that his company will continue to

fund Starlink service in Ukraine. But the debate laid bare the dangers of an entire country being too dependent on one billionaire.

Coming in at number four, hear that? That is what the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy sounds like. And in 2022, scientists were able to capture an image of it for the very first time. The image, which was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, which is a global network of synchronized radio observatories, confirmed the presence of a supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* some 27,000 light years away from Earth.

Number three is the world's first planetary defense mission. After billions of years of being at the mercy of killer asteroids and comets, in 2022, earthlings struck back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And for the first time, our technology allows us to actually do something about it.

FISHER (on camera): NASA's plan was to try to ram a refrigerator-size spacecraft called DART into an asteroid named Dimorphos to see if the impact would push the asteroid slightly off course. Now, Dimorphos posed no threat to planet Earth, but if the test worked, it would mean that this type of technique could maybe be used to deflect a future killer asteroid that is headed for Earth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the name of planetary defense.

FISHER (on camera): After spending six months barreling through space --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have impact.

FISHER (on camera): -- the bullseye hit was captured by telescopes all over the world, which later confirmed that the tiny DART spacecraft was successful in bumping that asteroid off course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I think that earthlings should sleep better and definitely, I will.


FISHER (on camera): Coming in at number two, the James Webb Space Telescope finally delivering on its decades-long promise by beaming back its first images to Earth.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, when this image is shared with the world, it will be a historic moment for science and technology. For astronomy and space exploration. For America and all of humanity.

FISHER (on camera): It's the culmination of more than 30 years' worth of work, carrying the hopes and dreams of astronomers all over the world seeking answers to some of humanity's most existential questions -- are we alone in the universe, and where did that first light in the cosmos come from some 13 billion years ago?

NASA leadership describing the moment they first saw the kinds of images that Webb was capable of producing from its perch about a million miles away from Earth.

THOMAS ZURBUCHEN, NASA ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR: A sense of awe and, frankly, I got emotional.

PAM MELROY, NASA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR: It just moved me as a scientist, as an engineer, and as a human being.

FISHER (on camera): And this is it -- the first image taken by the telescope released by NASA. It's called Webb's First Deep Field. And all of these lights -- they're not individual stars. Each one is an entire galaxy and each galaxy is filled with billions of stars. If you zoom in on some of them you can even see that distinctive spiral shape.

Webb also took some spectacular images of planets a little bit closer to home. Here's Jupiter and Neptune as you've never seen her.

Finally, the pillars of creation where baby stars are born. It's part of the Eagle Nebula some 6,500 light years away and it was first made famous by Webb's predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, in 1995.

And finally, our number one space story of 2022.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Hydrogen burn-off ignitors initiate.

FISHER (on camera): For the first time in more than 50 years, NASA launching a rocket capable of carrying astronauts back to the moon.

The Artemis rocket is NASA's first spacecraft since the Space Shuttle designed to launch people into orbit. Years overdue, billions over budget, it was rolled back from the launch pad to the safety of its hangar to escape Hurricane Ian, only to be rolled back out to the launch pad just in time to take a direct hit from Hurricane Nicole. But just five days later, NASA making the gutsy call to give the third launch attempt a go.

The Orion spacecraft then separated from the Artemis or SLS rocket, beginning a nearly26-day, 1.4 million-mile odyssey to the moon and back. The spacecraft traveled further into space than any spacecraft designed to carry humans had ever flown, while beaming back spectacular images of the moon and our home.

Orion's final test, its heat shield successfully protecting the mannequins on board the Artemis 1 mission from the blistering temperatures of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere and blazing the way for Artemis 2 when four real astronauts will be on board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Splashdown. The latest chapter of NASA's journey to the moon comes to a close. Orion back on Earth.

NELSON: What a year for exploration, and innovation, and discovery for all of humanity. FISHER (on camera): Kristin Fisher, CNN, Washington.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: The images are just stunning. And thank you so much, Kristin, for taking us where we cannot go.

The top boss at Southwest Airlines now apologizing for canceling flights that left a lot of passengers stranded even days after their flights were canceled.

All right -- and then we get up close and personal with some of the world's most dangerous underwater predators. That's next.



WILD: Well, when you hear the word shark you might think it's time to get out of the water -- to run as fast as you can from the water. But in Cuba, they actually want you to go underneath the surface with these creatures.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann did just that. He headed to the coast of Cuba for a new perspective on these underwater predators.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Usually they are the last thing you want to see in the ocean, but Sharks are the reason why we have come here to the waters off Eastern Cuba. We're hoping to see the predators up close and with no cage.

Local guides say this is the only place in Cuba -- perhaps one of only a handful in the world where divers can safely swim alongside bull sharks. We are taking them at their word, praying the sharks had a big breakfast.

Bull sharks are considered some of the most aggressive in the world, but the ones we see seem mostly curious, swimming around me for a closer look before gliding away. Guide Lasarow (PH) says they want to teach visitors to respect sharks and to protect them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

OPPMANN (voice over): "The shark is the perfect machine and the perfect predator," he says. "It's inspiring, emotional, and satisfying to interact with them."

Marine biologists say robust shark populations are necessary to maintain healthy coral reefs. In 2015, Cuba placed restrictions on shark fishing, one of an increasing number of countries in the Caribbean to realize that sharks are not only important to the environment but a way to track visitors.

OPPMANN (on camera): People in the Caribbean used to commonly catch and kill sharks either for food or because they were considered a nuisance. But warmer countries in this region are now taking steps to protect sharks. And it's not just about conservation. Shark tourism -- visitors specifically coming to a country to dive with sharks can generate millions of dollars in revenue.

OPPMANN (voice over): Just before her first dive with sharks, Canadian tourist Carrie tells us she's been terrified of them ever since seeing "Jaws".

CARRIE PREVOST, DIVING WITH SHARKS: I watched the movie very young and I was even afraid to swim in pools, let alone the ocean. So this is a challenge to overcome.

OPPMANN (voice over): Guides spearfish to attract the sharks but are careful to use the minimum bait necessary. They say they've never had an attack involving a client or guide, and that people who come to dive here gain a new perspective on sharks.



"It's the myth of the shark being dangerous -- a maneater that is aggressive," he says. "Then you manage to see a shark a meter and a half away from you and when you come out of the water they say this is the best dive of my life."

The sharks we swam with are undeniably powerful and also incredibly beautiful. At the top of the food chain, but never seeming to threaten us.

OPPMANN (on camera): And they said the shot of adrenaline in your arm, they were not kidding. I don't want to admit to being afraid but they're very impressive creatures.

OPPMANN (voice over): Creatures that there are now more and more reasons to try and protect.

Patrick Oppmann CNN, Playa Santa Lucia, Cuba.


WILD: Patrick is the impressive one in that story, certainly. I don't think very many correspondents would go underneath and swim with sharks. Very, very impressive work, Patrick Oppmann.

All right, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," a huge demand for children's medicine. Pharmacies limiting how much you can buy as flu cases soar.

And next, right here, the Southwest Airlines meltdown and the chief executive's apology.



BOB JORDAN, CEO, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: Our plan for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule and reposition our people and planes. And we're making headway and we're optimistic to be back on track before next week.



WILD: That's Southwest CEO Bob Jordan apologizing to frustrated customers stranded by the airline system's meltdown. Jordan blamed last week's historic winter storm for the problems, but the problem is everybody was subject to that historic winter storm. And the problem is Southwest is still canceling flights while other airlines have recovered. It's already scrubbed more than 2,500 flights today.

So let's bring in Lindsey Roeschke. She's a travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult.

So, Lindsey, what is an investigation going to find into why their operation was so debilitated when other airlines seemed to manage this more or less OK?

LINDSEY ROESCHKE, TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY ANALYST, MORNING CONSULT (via Webex by Cisco): Yes. It looks like what the investigation is going to be looking into is whether or not these cancellations were controllable. So earlier this year, the Department of Transportation launched a controlled cancellations and delays dashboard to tell customers what they are entitled to.

And so, while, obviously, the weather is not under the control of the airlines, what has happened since seems to be a little bit more of something that Southwest could have planned or prepared for. So, basically, finding what customers who have been disrupted will be entitled to in the wake of all these cancellations.

WILD: And so, what are the customer rights? What can -- what are they entitled to? What can they do if their fight is canceled? We heard earlier on the broadcast some people saying that they're not going to be able to get back onto a flight until January. So what are the options?

ROESCHKE: Well, there are a few different things.

I would say right now, customers should probably be looking to book on other airlines just because Southwest is scaling back. Obviously, that requires an out-of-pocket cost. But I think what this investigation is going to turn up is whether or not Southwest has to compensate individual passengers based on when they flew, what their route was, what the cancellation terms were for alternative flights, hotels, accommodations, and things like that.

So right now, passengers would be best to be proactive and find other accommodations and other ways of getting to where they need to go. But ultimately, that's what the investigation will kind of look into, is what each individual passenger is entitled to.

WILD: And then -- so you -- you just mentioned, which is the important thing, is that it's not like it's for free. So can people get their money back? Do they just have to eat the cost? How does -- how does that work?

ROESCHKE: Well, Southwest is saying, ultimately, they're planning on compensating folks. I think what we have to keep in mind though is in the meantime, that requires an out-of-pocket spend. And at a time around the holidays when we already know finances are tight, inflation is high. Credit card interest rates are high, which means putting that hotel or flight on a credit card means you're going to be paying interest on it. Unfortunately, it means that those passengers are going to be hit in the short term with some of those costs while they wait for any reimbursements to process.

WILD: Can you explain a little bit more about why Southwest was so hard-hit? I mean, we were talking about this storm for days prior. I was in Chicago 10 days ago and even back then people were saying oh, you better get out quickly because this storm is coming. Why was Southwest so unable to manage this when other airlines seemed to do OK? What was different about them?

ROESCHKE: It seems like there are a couple of different reasons. Of course, all airlines were impacted by the winter storm and the cold weather. But the other major airlines have recuperated since and Southwest has not due to a couple of different reasons -- the first being the type of model that they operate.

The other major airlines operate what's called a hub-and-spoke model where their flight crews and things are based in kind of central hubs. So it's easier for them to get crews, and staff, and planes in place to get people where they need to be from those hubs.

Southwest operates a point-to-point model, which at the risk of going into it in-depth makes it a little bit more difficult to get people where they need to go.

The other thing we're hearing is that their systems are not finding the people that they need to find, so that's meaning that they're not able to locate flight crew that they need to locate to get where they need to go.

So there are a couple of things it looks like Southwest is going to have to really reckon with in the wake of all of this.

WILD: Absolutely.

Lindsey Roeschke, thank you so much for your insight. We really appreciate it.

ROESCHKE: Thank you.

WILD: All right. Coming up next, the Supreme Court ordering Title 42 border restrictions to stay in place for now. What that means for thousands of migrants waiting at the border, ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING."



WILD: Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic comes back for the ages -- one of the greatest performances in NBA sports history.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Ca -- Coy -- sorry. I'm on the struggle bus today, Coy. Sorry about that. What you got?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, his performance leaves us speechless, Whitney. Good morning to you.

Christmas may be over but Luka Doncic, a jolly old fellow, giving all sorts of cheer to the fans in Dallas. He becomes the first NBA player ever to record a 60-point, 20 rebounds, 10 assists stat line in a game.

The 3-time All-Star crushing the Knicks. The Mavs were down nine with 33 seconds to go, but Doncic carried his team on his shoulder like Santa with a big bag of toys. Luka -- watch him tie the game here, Whitney. He intentionally misses a free throw, grabs his own rebound, and puts it back in himself.

In 20 years, NBA teams were 0-13,844 when they trailed by at least nine with 35 or less.

Now, in overtime, Luka poured in seven of Dallas' 11 points, bringing him to a cool 60 on the night. They win 126-121 -- does Dallas.

And Luka, afterward, says he was thirsty.



REPORTER: You can rest later. You're young.

DONCIC: I need a recovery beer.


WIRE: Give us all one. It wasn't a recovery beer, but his teammates were waiting in the locker room afterward and gave the hero a nice refreshing water bottle shower.

OK, now we'll go to the NFL where Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is back in the NFL's concussion protocol for a second time this season. The back of his head hit the ground in the second quarter against the Packers on Sunday. He didn't leave the game after this or any other hit, nor was he evaluated for a concussion.

The league's chief medical officer says Tua didn't show any signs of needing a medical check.


DR. ALLEN SILLS, NFL CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: What our spotters and our NFL-affiliated neuro doctors are looking for is any blow that transmits force to the head or neck area followed by the injury behavior. And so, there are many blows to the head that occur during a game. We're always looking for the blow, plus the injury behavior. And obviously, if we see any injury behavior, then there's a call-down made to evaluate that player.

Also, if a player identifies any symptoms or a teammate, coach, or anyone else identifies symptoms, that also initiates a protocol. So, many people can initiate the protocol.

And in this game on Sunday, none of those factors were present. There were no visible signs present.