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October 15th, 2012
10:55 AM ET

Nik Wallenda on skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s historic jump from edge of space

High wire artist and veteran stuntman Nik Wallenda takes a closer look at Felix Baumgartner’s historic jump from the edge of space on “Starting Point.”

“You know there is a little bit of winging it,” Wallenda says of Baumgartner’s jump from 24 miles above the Earth. “You can only trust science and technology to take you so far… That's where that adrenaline and all that training really, and experience kicks in. He'd done over 250 jumps leading up to that. His military background helped him a lot, I'm sure. And as you saw, as soon as he hit the right altitude he did regain control and all that comes with experience.”

Filed under: Science • Space
October 10th, 2012
12:49 PM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Singer, traveler? Sarah Brightman turns childhood dream of space travel into reality

In an exclusive interview on CNN’s “Starting Point,” bestselling soprano and humanitarian Sarah Brightman discusses her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to venture into space.

The world famous soprano, who has thrilled audiences on stage in “Phantom of The Opera," is teaming with Space Adventures and the Russian Federal Space Agency (FSA) in Moscow to prepare for a 10-day trip on board the SOYUZ Rocket to the International Space Station.

In order to participate, Brightman was required to travel to Star City in Moscow to undergo intense tests.

“I had to go into a centrifuge...just to sort of keep your self conscious, I had to do math while I was up there. It was an amazing feeling but quite frightening,” Brightman says.

Brightman adds that despite all the spinning chairs, prodding and poking during testing, she has always been fascinated with space and says her trip in 2015 will help turn a childhood dream into a reality.

Brightman, who has been named UNESCO Artist for Peace, is hoping to connect with students and children while she is at the international space station. The humanitarian is also hoping to sing to space and says there are currently plans for “something very extraordinary, around the world...a connection from space to place” to turn this possibility into a reality.

Filed under: Exclusive • Space
October 9th, 2012
01:11 PM ET

Fmr. Astronaut Mark Kelly 'optimistic' on Baumgartner's record free-fall attempt, says Giffords continues to improve

An attempt by the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner to free fall 23 miles is back on after a brief hold for weather conditions this morning.

It's a little scary and a little risky. Somebody who might know something about that is retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. He is also the husband of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

He talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning to talk Baumgartner's attempt and also his new children's book "Mousetronaut," based on his very first trip to space in the space shuttle.

Kelly says though Baumgartner's stunt carries a lot of risk, he thinks the Austrian skydiver can pull off the jump.

"If he's got a good engineering team and his suit works and, you know, as he hits the atmosphere, if he can withstand those forces and then finally the chute opens he should be OK. I'm optimistic. I think he can do this," he says.

"We send guys out to do space walks, I mean, routinely and that's a very similar thing to what you're looking at there with the exception of he's his own re-entry vehicle. So that's pretty hazardous," Kelly adds.

Kelly says his inspiration for his children's book "Mousetronaut" came from his first shuttle flight on Endeavour in 2001.

"We had 18 mice on board. Of those 18 mice, 17 of them stayed kind of latched on to the inside of their cages. They were very nervous about being in space. But one little guy seemed to get it, enjoyed weightlessness, would go over and get his water and his food. We enjoyed watching him a little bit and that was impetuous to this story," Kelly says.

He found the inspiration to write the book to inspire kids to learn. "I think it's important to have material for young kids to be interested in, and my experience has been that kids are interested in astronauts and space and they are also interested in animals. So I put the two there together and hopefully, they will be interested in this book," Kelly says.

Kelly says his wife Gabby is doing well and is continuing her recovery.

"She continues to work on that physical therapy and her right arm doesn't work at all, it's paralyzed," Kelly says. "Speaking is still something that she works on every single day with speech - almost every day with speech therapy. We recently moved back to Tucson and that's great for her to get home. She's continuing to improve."

"If she continues to get better, she will have the opportunity to go back to work," Kelly adds.

Filed under: Education • Gabrielle Giffords • Space
August 9th, 2012
02:49 PM ET

"Curiosity" sends back the first full-resolution images of Mars – NASA scientist Dr. Michael Meyer weighs in

Lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program Dr. Michael Meyer weighs in on the first full-resolution images the "Curiosity" rover sent back of Mars’ rocky surface.

Two new photographs, stitched together into a single image, show the red planet's rocky surface in striking detail. The early pictures are being compares to the Mojave Desert.

Dr. Meyer talks about curiosity and its recent discoveries. He says, “It’s a very precious asset that we now have on Mars. It’s priceless.” “One of the things we’re excited about is that even in our landing area we see several different types of soil regulate in the area that might in fact help us understand gale craters.”

Dr. Meyer also weighs in on NASA sensation Bobak Ferdowsi – better known as the "Mohawk Guy."

Filed under: Curiosity • NASA • Space
August 8th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

Mars rover begins beaming data and images back to Earth

The Mars rover Curiosity is busy explore the Gale Crater and sending back incredible images from the red planet this morning.

NASA released the first color photo of Mars' surface and video of the landing yesterday, and over the next few days we'll see ever more high-res images of the planet.

Scientists expect it will take months for Curiosity to reach a mountain at the center of the crater. It's the primary target of the two-year science mission because it could give valuable insight into whether Mars can sustain life.

American Museum of National History curator Denton Ebel sits down with Brooke and John on Starting Point this morning to explain what scientific information he's looking forward to coming out of the mission.

Filed under: Science • Space
August 6th, 2012
12:15 PM ET

NASA scientist: Successful rover landing 'kind of like winning a gold medal in the Olympics'

After traveling for more than eight months and traversing 352 million miles, NASA's Curiosity rover is now on Mars.

From conception to landing, the rover mission took eleven years to complete and cost an estimated $2.6 billion.

NASA scientist Jim Garvin appears on Starting Point this morning to discuss the significance of the mission and to explain what scientists hope to accomplish with the rover.

"We'd like to find the kind of chemical fingerprints that show that Mars may have been a habitable world [...] and that would maybe tell us that we're not alone" Garvin explains. "So this mission is all about understanding the rocks and soils on Mars as if we were chemical fossil hunters so we have to do a lot of exploring to address that question."



Filed under: NASA • Space
April 24th, 2012
09:38 AM ET

Mining asteroids for water and platinum? Planetary Resources co-founders Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson say it can be a reality soon

Imagine a mission to dock with an asteroid to extract water and platinum. Might sound more like the 1998 blockbuster "Armageddon," but if one company has it's way it will be reality very soon.

Today, a new company called "Planetary Resources" is announcing it will do just that. The plan: To look for water and precious metals like platinum. They've already got big cash backing from the likes of Google and director James Cameron.

Planetary Resources co-founders Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson explain to Soledad this morning on "Starting Point" that it's possible to do this in an inexpensive way.

"More than ever before, you can build very small, very capable, low-cost robotic spacecraft that can go out to near-Earth asteroids," Diamandis says. "Many of them have resources that are valuable both in space and down here on Earth."

Anderson says a lot of what can be mined will depend on what kind of asteroid it is, and depending on the mineral they want to extract they could use different methods.

They say they're starting with mining for water since they estimate a pound of water is worth $20-50,000 in deep space.

"Our company has the vision to begin to get access to those resources," Diamandis adds.

Filed under: Space • Viral