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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Moonshots for the 21st Century. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 06, 2015 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: July 16th, 1969, Apollo 11 Saturn 5 rocket longer than a football field breaks free of the launch pad. Its destination, the moon.

The Apollo program launched the imaginations of America's greatest minds, spurred by the boldest dare in human history.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.

NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: The eagle has landed.

BUZZ ALDRIN, ASTRONAUT: OK. Now we can see you coming down.

ZAKARIA: A moonshot for all of humanity.

ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

ZAKARIA: That first walk on the moon was over 40 years ago.

In this hour we'll explore five great moonshots of today. Sending astronauts to Mars, 3-D printing a human heart. Creating a star on earth. Flying from New York to London in an hour. And mapping the human brain.

Welcome to a GPS special, "Moonshots for the 21st Century."

It was early December 2014 at Cape Canaveral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beautiful morning for a launch in Florida.

ZAKARIA: But it felt a little bit like the days of Apollo.







ZAKARIA: At the top of a Delta 4 heavy rocket sat Orion, the spacecraft NASA has designed for sending human beings to Mars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, and liftoff. At dawn. The dawn of Orion, and a new era of American space exploration.

ZAKARIA: It went farther into space than any other NASA craft meant for humans in over 40 years. Fourteen times higher than the International Space Station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now just a few miles away from reaching peak altitude.

ZAKARIA: Then it returned at speeds of up to 20,000 miles per hour withstanding 4,000 degree heat before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Orion's maiden flight from start to finish was picture perfect.

ZAKARIA: The trip lasted only four and a half hours. But NASA hopes that future versions of Orion will take the much longer journey with astronauts all the way to Mars.

CHARLES BOLDEN, FORMER NASA ADMINISTRATOR: When the American people get behind something and the international community gets behind it, we can do anything we want to do.

ZAKARIA: Charles Bolden has served at NASA for nearly two decades. Leading the agency since 2009.

BOLDEN: Usually launches are emotional but it was an incredible day. I think anybody who -- who knows what's going on, who doesn't tear up, probably is just -- they're pretty -- they're pretty hard.

ZAKARIA: Why send a manned mission to Mars? This is going to be expensive, this is going to be challenging. Why do it?

BOLDEN: Well, we have to. You have to send a human somewhere if you really want to find difficult answers. Is there life somewhere else in our universe. Is there the real possibility that humans can exist somewhere away from earth? That's really, really important.

I happen to be one who believes that a multi-planet species can survive in perpetuity. Single planet species will die away.

ZAKARIA: NASA says it will send humans to Mars in the 2030s. They are making more progress toward that goal than you might realize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight, seven, six --

ZAKARIA: To cheat Earth's gravity with a crew of astronauts and the things they'll need for Mars, NASA needs a new ride.


ZAKARIA: So it's building a new generation of rockets, some of the largest, most powerful rockets it has ever built, measuring taller than the statue of Liberty.

A massive welding tool will piece together the cylinders and domes that will make up the rocket's fuel tanks. And to save a few bucks, NASA will use engines from the old space shuttle fleet which still have talent of power.

After leaving Earth the astronauts will face at least 34 million miles of space travel. A month's long journey, NASA says. The whole mission could last three years.

Human beings can go crazy in that kind of cramped long-term isolation. So to see how a crew can cope, NASA is funding isolation studies like the HI-SEAS mission. Five people spent four months in a small dome on the Mars-like Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the main living space right here.

ZAKARIA: There was a 20-minute communication delay with the outside world, similar to what Mars astronauts would face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the only time that we have in the habitat.

ZAKARIA: The only time they were allowed to leave the habitat was in space suits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Tin has climbed the mountain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't had a huge amount of interpersonal conflict, although every once in a while --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not always facing away from the camera.

ZAKARIA: To keep track of the group's mood --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called a sociometric patch.

ZAKARIA: -- crew members wore devices that detected the volume of their voices and their proximity to one another. And their writing was analyzed by a computer program that looked for telling words and phrases.

KIM BINSTED, HI-SEAS PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Words that tend to have stronger emotional content. Obviously key words like frustrated and jerk, and stuff like that could be signs, but there's also subtler signs as well.

ZAKARIA: The day the mission ended was a happy one for the crew. They told us things went well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are going to be ups and downs. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I found really difficult is --

ZAKARIA: But admitted there was some testy moment.

TIFFANY SWARMER, HI-SEAS CREW MEMBER: Sixty days in you're going, why am I reacting this way? I never would react this way. This isn't who I am.

ZAKARIA: The final leg of the journey might be the most difficult part of all -- the landing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown confirmed.

ZAKARIA: NASA hopes to learn from the landings of Mars rover's like Curiosity which has been roaming the red planet for over two years now.

ADAM STELTZNER, NASA SCIENTIST: I remember after landing, sort of being bewildered. It's like a decade of my life is done. It worked.

ZAKARIA: Adam Steltzner is the rock star rocket scientist at NASA's jet propulsion laboratory. Whose team made the landing happen.

STELTZNER: Mars has an annoying atmosphere. It's very thin. It's sort of equivalent to the atmosphere on earth at about 120,000 to 150,000 feet.

ZAKARIA: That was too thin to slow down Curiosity enough with parachutes, so Steltzner and his team thought up the sky craft, a rocket powered craft that would lower the rover to the surface with cables, then speed off and crash land a safe distance away.

STELTZNER: We knew that every time we spoke of it, we'd lose our credibility because it looked so crazy.

ZAKARIA: The crazy plan worked. But landing humans on the red planet will be a lot harder than landing a rover.

STELTZNER: Curiosity was about two tons, two metric tons, as she approached the surface of Mars. And we think that a human vessel would be something like 20 or 40 metric tons as it approached the surface of Mars.

ZAKARIA: What's the single hardest thing about getting to Mars?

DANIEL MULVILLE, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Convincing people that it's worth it, is the single most difficult thing, convincing the American taxpayer, the administration, the Congress that it's really worth this, and that there is a benefit to be gained is probably the single most -- much more difficult than the technological challenges out there.

ZAKARIA: Do you wish, though, that there was a much more ambitious funding --

MULVILLE: Fareed. ZAKARIA: Pattern for --

MULVILLE: Now, see, you're going to get me in trouble. Yes, I'm the NASA administrator. I always wish for much, much more. This is really hard. And this is very risky. And we are going to lose

things and people along the way, but it's so worth it because what we're going to do for humanity by making us a multi-planet species is just beyond the imagination. It's mind-boggling the way that this is going to be an advantage to humanity. We can't even imagine that.

ZAKARIA: Coming up 3-D printers can make some amazing things these days. But what about printing human organs? One man says that 10 years from now he will be able to print an entire human heart.

And later a moonshot for energy. We'll show you how scientists are trying to create a star right here on earth.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perfect. Put your bracelet on.

ZAKARIA: Five-year-old Ella Kroese needs a new heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to take some pictures of your belly, OK, then we'll take some up here, OK?

ZAKARIA: She was born with a serious heart defect. Three open heart surgeries weren't enough to fix it.


ZAKARIA: Only the right sized heart with the right blood type will do. And even though she's in the top priority category for a transplant, she's been waiting for months.

KATE KROESE, ELLA KROESE'S MOTHER: This is one thing that attacks every single emotion that you have in your body. Fear, anxiety, every day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Ella. How are you?

ZAKARIA: Thousands of Americans like Ella are on the national waiting list for a new heart, according to the U.S. government. And even if they get one, their bodies may reject it.

But what if doctors could manufacture a heart with a patient's own cells using a 3-D printer? That new machine that makes everything from food to shoes to cars. If that sounds like a pipe dream, say hello to the BioAssemblyBot. It's a robot that can already print several parts of the heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell the robot printer to built this for us. This is what we are going to print for you.

ZAKARIA: Blood vessels, heart valves and the heart's walls. It can print these parts with living, human cells. And one of its masterminds believes it can print an entire heart within a moonshot time frame. DR. STEWART WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: I really think that if

we put a large team together, which we are, I think we can get there within 10 years.

ZAKARIA: Dr. Stewart Williams at the University of Louisville leads the team that's working toward this goal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Verify and keep eyes on pressures.

ZAKARIA: And for Williams, the goal is personal.

WILLIAMS: My dad died of heart disease and the devices, the instruments that would really have been necessary to keep his heart functioning were not available at that time. So it really grew out of a personal vendetta that I had against cardiovascular pathology.

ZAKARIA: Now he and his colleagues are pioneers in the field of bioprinting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking biology and making it IT.

ZAKARIA: Having built a six-axis robot that they say would create a heart right in the operating room.

What would this look like visually? I'm still trying to understand. You press a button and this thing would actually print a heart? Is that what would happen?

WILLIAMS: Precisely. That is the plan.

ZAKARIA: MRI images of a healthy heart --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold your breath.

ZAKARIA: -- would be converted into a digital 3-D model. Then the patient's own fact would be taken out and convert it into the different cells that make up the heart.

WILLIAMS: We now have these incredible capabilities to take an adult cell and transform it into other types of cells.

ZAKARIA: Parts of the heart would then be bioprinted, piece by piece, and soon you would have a new heart.

How long would it take to print a heart?

WILLIAMS: The printing of a heart, I believe, could be accomplished in essentially a single day.

ZAKARIA: Doctor Williams and his team aren't the only bioprinters on the block. A group at Cornell University has bioprinted a human ear.

DR. LARRY BONASSAR, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: Cold collagen gel being deposited onto the warm plate. What that enables you to get is really sharp edges and really sharp boundaries.

ZAKARIA: It takes Dr. Larry Bonassar and his team --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks great.

ZAKARIA: -- just 15 minutes to print one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're pretty robust. You know, I can pick them up. And they can bend and they can do all the things that normal cartilage should do.

ZAKARIA: 3-D printed ears and other body parts Bonassar estimates --

BONASSAR: This is a meniscus.

ZAKARIA: -- could be used in human trials in less than five years.

BONASSAR: It brings the ability to make thousands, millions of tissue and to customize them for individual people. The heart has one major blood vessel called the left main artery.

ZAKARIA: And what's stopping us from making better organs, asks Dr. Williams.

WILLIAMS: Whoever put this original plan together put one major blood vessel leading into the left side, the major part of the heart. And when that becomes dysfunctional, we call it the widow maker. When that vessel fails, the patient will often die. So we can build a new heart based upon a design that has two or three blood vessels, a redundancy in this organ.

ZAKARIA: Do you sometimes worry that you're playing god, that you're actually creating human beings, parts of human beings?

STELTZNER: Well, I don't worry about that. But I certainly hope this technology can benefit as many people as is possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any questions?



ZAKARIA: People like Ella Kroese and the millions of others who suffer from heart defects and heart disease.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, Miss Ella, I think you are doing great.

ZAKARIA: If Dr. Williams' Moonshot becomes a reality, x, y, z time, it would be huge for a family

KROESE: If somebody could tell you that hey, I can make you an organ and you know, x, y, z time, it would be huge for our family time.

ZAKARIA: Coming up, scientists believe they could help power the world with a moonshot for energy, creating a start right here on Earth. And later, a new jet engine could have us flying at five times the

speed of sound. That would mean you could anywhere in the world in just four hours.


ZAKARIA: The sun, 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. 4.6 billion years old. What if we could somehow bring this blazing ball of energy down to earth, to power our world?

In southern France, at this construction site, a team of scientists is trying to do just that. In the center of this pit, they are hoping to pull up one of the most audacious feats of physics ever witnessed. Creating a star.

DR. NED SAUTHOFF, PLASMA PHYSICIST: We want to create a sun here on earth.

ZAKARIA: Dr. Ned Sauthoff, a plasma physicist, leads the U.S. contribution to this effort. A collaboration of 35 countries representing over half the world's population including China and Russia. The project is called ITER, which is Latin for "the way." If it's successful, it would be one of mankind's most significant achievements ever.

You are going to create a temperature on earth that is thousands of times hotter than anything on earth, correct?

SAUTHOFF: We are trying to create the hottest thing in the solar system.

ZAKARIA: You are trying to do something that people thought was unimaginable.

SAUTHOFF: That's absolutely true.

ZAKARIA: Here's how ITER would work.

The sun's energy comes from nuclear fusion in which atoms fuse together. The ITER device would creates fusion by heating forms of hydrogen to temperatures 10 times hotter than the sun. Containing that hot gas would be a powerful magnetic field created by big super conducting magnets.

SAUTHOFF: It's a magnetic field which is about 100,000 times stronger than the earth's magnetic field.

ZAKARIA: And it shields the heat as it were.

SAUTHOFF: That's correct.

ZAKARIA: This sounds so dangerous. What if it explodes in some sense?

SAUTHOFF: Well, first of all, this thing is very hard to keep going.

ZAKARIA: Understand, we are not talking here about nuclear fission reactions, which power today's nuclear reactors and can lead to devastating radioactive meltdowns like at Chernobyl. Controlled nuclear fusion reactions are actually very, very difficult to sustain. But ITER hopes to create the longest, most efficient, most powerful one ever. A milestone that could change the world.

MARK HENDERSON, PHYSICIST: We are exploiting a huge energy source.

ZAKARIA: Mark Henderson, another ITER physicist, notes that you can get all of the hydrogen you need to power fusion from one of the most abundant resources on earth -- ocean water.

There's enough hydrogen in the ocean to power humanity with fusion for millions of years, says ITER. And fusion reactions wouldn't produce any carbon emissions.

HENDERSON: What this thing is, is a future investment for your children and for your children's children.

ZAKARIA: ITER may be a noble experiment, but success will not come easily.

GUNTER JANESCHITZ, ITER: Almost everything here is a challenge because of the high accuracy and very large components.


ZAKARIA: Gunter Janeschitz has one of the hardest jobs on the project. Smoothing out technical issues between the countries as they build a very complex machine. China is making cables for the super conducting magnets. The U.S. is winding cables and building ITER's largest magnet. India is making the enormous steel structure that will surround ITER's magnets. And that's just a sampling of the work that these countries and others are doing, according to ITER.

JANESCHITZ: This is a political will everyone wants to gain the knowledge to build a fusion reactor after ITER.

ZAKARIA: Already, the estimated cost for ITER has skyrocketed. And an internal review of the project leaked to the "New Yorker" said that ITER is mired in gridlock.

There are some criticisms about the project that it's not being managed well. Perhaps because it is so international.


ZAKARIA: How do you respond to that?

SAUTHOFF: I respond that ITER is not only an experiment in science and technology it is an experiment in international cooperation. ZAKARIA: ITER officials and others in the fusion field insist that

the science behind ITER is sound. And if fusion energy can eventually be harnessed, it would have a profound impact on our lives.

HENDERSON: And I will simply save the day because the amount of energy that we have in the ocean is enough to live off of for all people on the earth for many, many generations.

Up next, a new technology could have us flying from New York to London in just one hour. That's one mile per second.

And later, paraplegics are learning to walk again thanks to a remarkable moonshot in your size.


ZAKARIA: What if you could fly from New York City to London in just one hour? Or fly from London to Tokyo in two hours? Or fly anywhere in the world in just four hours?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we go. 60 seconds to launch.


ZAKARIA: May 1st, 2013.


ZAKARIA: About 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean --

MERCIER: People really nervous. Engineers are a terrible breed. They start second guessing themselves.

ZAKARIA: A B-52 bomber gets ready to launch this. It's not a bomb, it's an aircraft designed to fly five times the speed of sound. It's called the X-51 WaveRider.

For Robert Mercier and his team at the Air Force research laboratory, it's a do-or-die flight. The X-51 had flown three times before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about booster burnout.

ZAKARIA: With one partial success and two duds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was always scheduled to go into the ocean, but not after just 30 seconds.


ZAKARIA: So, everybody knows this has to be perfect.


ZAKARIA: On their fourth try, Mercier and his team get exactly what they are hoping for, the longest flight ever with a new engine that can fly one mile in one second. Big Ben and the Big Apple would be only an hour apart at that speed.

MERCIER: That's like meant that we have the technology in hand to be able to design and build an engine that can fly in that extreme environment for however long we can carry fuel. If we had more fuel, we could have flown further.

ZAKARIA: Today's jet engines have trouble going faster than two or three times the speed of sound because their rotating parts would get too hot. But the engine that powered waverider had virtually no moving parts. It's called a scram jet engine. Here is how it works. Air from outside the aircraft is allowed to flow through the engine supersonically. That extremely hot air is mixed with jet fuel and lit on fire at just the right moment to create propulsion. A truly astonishing feat in aviation.

MERCIER: It's been likened to lighting a match inside of a blowing hurricane.

ZAKARIA: With the scramjet, you're not just flying supersonically, you're flying hypersonically, five times the sound barrier. The Air Force research laboratory is one of the government agencies leading the charge on this technology. We were given access to their facility on Wright Patterson Air Force base in Ohio.

MERCIER: Configurations - we are going to -- as we go on to larger sizes.

ZAKARIA: Engineers here are working on the next big thing in hypersonic flight. A high-speed strike weapon that could evade any air defense system.

MERCIER: I really can't go into details on that. Because that's getting closer to being ready for application.

ZAKARIA: They are also developing a hypersonic plane which they hope would fly twice as fast as the SR-71 blackbird, which flew over three times the sound barrier.

But the ultimate dream would be commercial hypersonic flight. That's not the Air Force's mission, but Mercier says it's possible, assuming the big challenges can be overcome, like dealing with the unreal heat involved.

MERCIER: The outside of the vehicle, we're seeing 2,250 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside of the vehicle where the engine is about a toasty 5,000 Fahrenheit.

ZAKARIA: Thanks to the lessons learned from projects like the waverider, Mercier believes we could have commercial hypersonic flight as soon as 2030.

MERCIER: Hypersonics is one of the last great frontiers in aeronautics. With the X-51, we've opened the door and we are moving into that arena. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA: Coming up, ever want to be a race car driver? Or a gourmet chef? Or a great golfer? Or talk to a famous historical figure as if he was still alive? We'll look at some exciting moonshots in neuroscience. And later, is the United States losing its edge in science and technology?




ZAKARIA: What if we could download a skill into our brains as easily as Keanu Reeves did in "The Matrix"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you like your women? Blond, brunette, red head?

ZAKARIA: Or implant a memory that we never actually experienced like in "Total Recall". Or control an "Avatar" with our thoughts, like in the James Cameron film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not used to your "Avatar" body. Is dangerous.


ZAKARIA: Science fiction could become a reality sooner than you think, if we can map the human brain.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: We have learned more about the brain in the last ten and 15 years than in all of human history combined.

ZAKARIA: Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and CBS News science contributor details these exciting possibilities and the current state of the brain in his latest book, "The Future of the Mind."

KAKU: We can actually photograph a thought, communicate these thoughts to, let's say, a robot or a computer. These were all considered to be preposterous just ten to 15 years ago, and now we do it.

ZAKARIA: Just as the telescope revolutionized astronomy, says Kaku, the MRI and other technologies have led to a golden age in neuroscience.

KAKU: We can actually see desire, self-awareness or guilty conscience. We can actually see these as blood flows as registered by an MRI machine.

ZAKARIA: The biggest moonshot in this field might be to map all of the inner workings of the brain down to the neuron, similar to mapping the human genome. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA: The next great American project, and that is what we are calling the brain initiative.

ZAKARIA: President Obama announced the brain initiative in 2013. It's an effort to show how the brain's neuro circuits work together in real time.

OBAMA: It won't be easy, but think about what we could do once we do crack this code.

ZAKARIA (on camera): Is it more difficult to map the brain than it was to map the human genome which took about initially 10 or 15 years.

KAKU: It will take a lot of time. Realize that the human genome project only talked about maybe 20,000 genes or so that governed the human body. The brain has 100 billion neurons. Each neuron connected to 10,000 other neurons. That's as many stars as there are in the Milky Way galaxy. And so, it will take time.

ZAKARIA (voice over): Europe's human brain project simulates the brain on a super computer. That won't be easy. Given the today's most powerful computers have just a fraction of the power necessary to do the job? But don't worry, scientists are already achieving what was once thought impossible. Juliano Pinto is paralyzed from the chest down. But he's learned to walk again, using an exoskeleton connected to his brain. One small step for Pinto, one giant leap for neuroscience.

DR. MIGUEL NICOLELIS: It was a moonshot. It was our neuroscience moonshot. These are all the people around the world that collaborated in the project.

ZAKARIA: Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, head of the Walk Again project trained eight paraplegics in Brazil to operate hydraulic legs, using only their thoughts. Patients simply think of the act of walking and a special cap reads their brain's electrical signals, which are decoded into commands for the legs.

NICOLELIS: In less than a decade, we went from a concept to a clinically relevant application that can impact the lives of 20, 30 million people around the world.

ZAKARIA: The exoskeleton also allows the patients to feel each step they are taking. Sensors like these throughout the device send signals to the patient's arms which stimulate them with feeling.

NICOLELIS: They had, for the first time in years, the ability to feel that they were touching the ground, that their knees are flexing or their foot is making contact of an object like a soccer ball.

ZAKARIA: The project culminated before the opening match of the 2014 World Cup where Juliano Pinto made the ceremonial first kick viewed by an audience of millions around the world.

NICOLELIS: The thing that touched me the most was when he came and look at me and said I touched the ball. I felt the ball. I felt the ball when I kick it.

ZAKARIA: Where is all of this ground breaking neuroscience leading us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to trust my body to know what to do.

ZAKARIA: That's where all of the Hollywood science fiction comes in, says Kaku.

KAKU: One day, we will actually connect the human mind to a robot, an "Avatar." an avatar which may one day walk on the Moon governed by an astronaut sitting in his hot tub in his living room. ZAKARIA (on camera): Would it be possible to take a skill and inject

it into the brain? I'm thinking of "The Matrix" and Keanu Reeves instantly learning martial arts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to learn jujitsu.

KAKU: This is conceivable. One day we might -- just might have the ability to insert the vacation that we never had into our mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to Recall Incorporated. Where you can buy the memory of your ideal vacation.

KAKU: And beyond that, maybe even upgrading the skills of workers. Why not record many of the skills that require high-tech and insert them into workers so they can upgrade their skills rather than having to go to junior colleges and struggle with courses. This may be a way to upgrade the skills of the population.

ZAKARIA: Ultimately, says Kaku, if we can upload our brains into a computer, we could outlive our frail bodies and perhaps achieve immortality.

KAKU: Perhaps one day we'll have a library of souls. Instead of going to the library to read up on Winston Churchill we'll see a hologram and have a conversation with Winston Churchill with all the memories and all the personality quirks. One day, our descendants may have a conversation with us because we live forever in a library of souls.

ZAKARIA: You really think this is possible?

KAKU: Well, just realize that today we're just at the beginning of this revolution. We're beginning now to record thoughts. And the very fact that we can talk about this in a scientific way means that we've all of a sudden crossed a watershed.


ZAKARIA: Up next -- will the U.S. still be the nation that can achieve the moonshots of the 21st century?


ZAKARIA: Moonshots are exciting, inspiring, but they are also expensive. Not all of them work out like Apollo 11.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 95 degrees east coming up on ...

ZAKARIA: So, are they worth it? Should we focus the time, money and energy on these kinds of ambitious scientific projects? The answer is yes. Think of it this way, imagine that the Apollo Moon landing had not succeeded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one small step for man.

ZAKARIA: Would it still have been worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One giant leap for mankind.

ZAKARIA: Almost certainly. The challenge of getting to the Moon and back meant coming up with all kinds of technological innovations and solutions that have then had almost miraculous commercial applications. For example, Apollo needed small computers for its trip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push the enter button. We see a real display now.

ZAKARIA: So, NASA says it made a big purchase of a relatively new technology. The integrated circuit, the technology behind what we now know as the microchip. The company's that pioneered the product, like Fairchild Semiconductor --


ZAKARIA: Whose alumni founded Intel, partly had NASA to thank, the agency says, for the popularity of the technology that followed. The U.S. government by buying the initial products helped the computer revolution take off. And it's not just the microchip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to begin navigation?

ZAKARIA: GPS technology, which is now powering the next phase of the information revolution was originally developed by the U.S. military.

It was only after the 1983 Soviet shoot down of a Korean Airlines flight ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aircraft strayed into Soviet airspace.

ZAKARIA: That the Reagan administration said it would share the technology so that civilian airplanes would not wander into restricted and dangerous territories. And it was only after the Cold War ended, that the Clinton administration opened up the technology fully to commercial applications, which, of course, unleashed a flood of innovation that continues to this day. Or consider the mapping of the human genome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the DNA is in there.

ZAKARIA: According to the Battelle Memorial Institute, the federal government spent $3.8 billion on this massive project from 1990 to 2003 and among few other entities could ever have afforded it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome.

ZAKARIA: But in leading the way, it encouraged others. And now a person's DNA can be sequenced for as little as $1,000. The impact on the economy of the human genome sequencing from 1988 to 2010 was estimated by Battelle at almost $800 billion. Enough to support more than 310,000 jobs in 2010 alone. If you listen to all this and think the U.S. is on the right track, alas, the problem is, it is not. Federal funding for research and development has barely been keeping up with inflation in recent years.

If you look at the numbers from the National Science Foundation. Since big entitlements like Social Security are mandatory spending programs, it is discretionary spending, like science that often bears the brunt of the budget axe. And this comes at a time when others around the world are moving fast. The United States has dominated the world of basic science for years, even decades. But recently, its share of global research and development has been falling from 37 percent of the total in 2001 to now 30 percent, according to the National Science Foundation. As scientists - points out, China is on course to surpass the United States in the percent of its GDP it spends on research and development in just a few years. It used to be that funding basic science was not a partisan issue. As -- the certain Rock Reed Republican was a big proponent of basic research.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The remarkable thing is that although basic research does not begin with a particular practical goal, when you look at the results over the years, it ends up being one of the most practical things government does. This is why I have urged Congress to devote more money to research. It is an indispensable investment in America's future.

ZAKARIA: That was, of course, Ronald Reagan in a 1988 radio address. Americans used to understand that moonshots inspire us, but they also power America's future. Let's hope that today's politicians follow Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development and let's hope that many of you, especially the young amongst you might be inspired by the projects we described to work on the moonshots of the future. Maybe one day CNN will have a program on your moonshot.

Thanks for watching this special edition of "GPS." You can watch us every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern.