(CNN Student News) -- December 3, 2008
Got Worms? - Look to the stars to ponder the possibility of life on other planets.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: A lot to see today, including a look at the history of America's most famous house, and a look at the possibilities of life in the universe. But first, the headlines!
AZUZ: An executive salary of one dollar a year. That's what the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler, the U.S. auto industry's "Big Three," have agreed to. It's part of the plans they're submitting to Congress about how they intend to turn around their struggling businesses. The automakers are hoping this will get them that multi-billion dollar bailout they've been asking for. Some lawmakers have been opposed to the idea though, saying the auto industry got itself into its current situation.
Nearly a month after Election Day, voters in Georgia headed back to the polls to cast their ballots in one of the two undecided U.S. Senate contests. In November, neither incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss nor Democrat Jim Martin received enough votes to clinch the job. That triggered yesterday's runoff. Late last night, CNN projected that Chambliss would be the winner, retaining his seat in the U.S. Senate.
And a pledge from President-elect Barack Obama to work together with U.S. governors on the economy. The incoming president met with the National Governors Association yesterday. This group is pushing the federal government for help confronting financial struggles at the state level. But there are some governors that are against the idea, saying the states should find solutions themselves.
AZUZ: When he's sworn in as president, Mr. Obama and his family will make history as the first, African-American First Family. Of course, they'll be moving into the White House, a building with a strong connection to slaves, one that dates back to its construction. Susan Roesgen looks back to examine how far the country has moved forward.
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SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN REPORTER: Our national symbol of democracy and freedom. But behind the proud history of the White House are the black hands of hundreds of slaves.
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It was the slaves that did a lot of the building the White House. They also worked there, did the service jobs, were the people that would tend the horses or clean the dishes, prepare the meals.
ROESGEN: That's the history the future First Family inherits, and the Obamas' own history is one of slavery too. Michelle Obama learned just this year that her great, great grandfather worked on a rice plantation in South Carolina. She says finding that part of her past uncovered both shame and pride, what she calls the tangled history of this country.
BRINKLEY: I think Michelle should celebrate the fact that her ancestors came through the ordeal of slavery. Her children are sleeping in the room of presidents, and it's a very great and hopeful sign.
ROESGEN: It's hard to know what the Obamas were thinking as they toured the White House after the election. Twelve American presidents owned slaves, and eight presidents owned slaves while they were in office. For instance, Andrew Jackson called slaves "unfortunate creatures," but he owned more than 160. And Zachary Taylor said owning slaves was a Constitutional right worth going to war to keep. This year, November fourth was a new beginning.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, tonight is your answer.
ROESGEN: Susan Roesgen, CNN.
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ERIC GERSHON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What planet is named for the Roman god of war? Is it: A) Jupiter, B) Mars, C) Saturn or D) Neptune? You've got three seconds -- GO! All of these planets are named after Roman gods, but Mars was the one associated with war. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: NASA is considering different landing sites for its next mission to the Red Planet. The Mars Science Laboratory is expected to launch next fall and pick up where the Mars rovers left off: digging up the soil to look for signs of life. But as Miles O'Brien reports, one of those rovers might have already found one.
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STEVE GOREVAN, HONEYBEE ROBOTICS: It's about a millimeter long.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN REPORTER: Welcome to Steve Gorevan's Wall of Fame: pictures of the first holes made by humans on Mars. That's a big deal to him because his company designed the drill bits that made them on the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers. But there is one picture here that could be a big deal for all of us.
GOREVAN: I came into the science room, and there was only one other person from NASA headquarters there.
O'BRIEN: He was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab a few days after Opportunity landed in 2004.
GOREVAN: And she comes over and she says, "Take a look at this." The next thing we did was we both just look at each other like this. And in our minds, I think we were saying, "Wow."
O'BRIEN: Now, I am not a scientist -- I just play one on TV -- but that sure looks like a little worm to me. Or is it a rotini?
GOREVAN: Look, what occurred to me of course because I'm an engineer and I can say this is that we were looking at a fossil.
O'BRIEN: Alas, Opportunity is not equipped to study fossils. Lacking any other options, the science team ordered the rover to move on to the next rock.
O'BRIEN: So, you could have stumbled on it. Dumb luck. You could have stumbled on, literally, the holy grail on Mars, with a key question about life and could do nothing about it.
GOREVAN: Yes, I think that's a fair statement. We could do nothing about it.
CHRIS MCKAY, NASA SCIENTIST: Pictures by themselves at that sort of scale will never really be convincing evidence of life. We need more direct chemical and biological tests.
O'BRIEN: Astrobiologist Chris McKay would kill for the chance to conduct tests like that on Mars. He spends much of his time in some of the more life-forsaken places on our planet. I found him in Chile's Atacama Desert a few years ago. The idea: Draw the boundaries of life on Earth, so we can better understand where to look for it out there. So, let's assume for a moment Steve Gorevan's rotini worm is indeed a fossil, and is proof of a unique strain of Martian life. Then what?
MCKAY: Leads me to the conclusion that life is common in the universe. If right here in our own little solar system life started twice, well that means life is a natural phenomena and it's happening everywhere; that what we see on Earth is not a cosmic fluke.
O'BRIEN: If that is true, where are the aliens hiding in our galaxy? Astronomer Geoff Marcy is hot on the trail. He is the world's leading planet hunter.
GEOFF MARCY, BERKELEY ASTRONOMER: We are really searching for our own roots out there in the galaxy.
O'BRIEN: He and his team have found about half of the 300-plus planets we know of beyond our solar system. Right now, technology only allows them to locate gas giants like Jupiter. But that will change next spring when NASA launches a space telescope designed to find other earths.
MARCY: You know, you think about our Milky Way galaxy, and you look up at the night sky. Our galaxy contains 200 billion -- with a "B" -- stars. There, in fact, are hundreds and billions of galaxies within our entire universe. So, if each of our stars within our galaxy has, say, one Earth, that means that there are hundreds of billions of Earths just within our galaxy alone.
O'BRIEN: But here is the rub: Our galaxy is 100,000 light years from stem to star. Let's say we found another cushy berth for life halfway across. It would take 50,000 years to send the alien civilization a signal; another 50,000 for a response.
MARCY: You wouldn't be able to tell a joke and have the punch line be given to at the right timing.
O'BRIEN: So for now, the scientific hunt for aliens is focused at the pond scum level in our celestial neighborhood. But it's a start. Perhaps we should send another robot to the site of Steve Gorevan's worm and take another look.
GOREVAN: You've got to have a lot more than just one little image from a hole that we dug a couple of years ago.
O'BRIEN: But, having said that, that could be it. Wow. Miles O'Brien, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AZUZ: Kind of blows your mind. We want you to head to our blog to tell us what you think of all this space stuff! Meanwhile, here's what you're saying about the rock band story from Monday's show: "The punishment would certainly make me stop playing too loudly," Joyce says. "Barney? I can't stand it and I'm in sixth grade." Brady thought the punishment was good, but he "felt bad for the adults who had to sit there and listen too." Devin says "the band should've been given a warning before it got the full punishment." And Gwen actually likes the songs used in court, saying "it hurts that they'd use those songs to punish the band!" Your comment is always welcome. But please, please, please give us only your first name, so we can publish it!
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, it's kind of like the ultimate story of holiday regifting. This Christmas card has logged a lot of miles. You see, when he was a kid, this man named Art gave the card to his friend, Bill. The next year, Bill crossed his name off and gave it right back. And the two have kept up the odd exchange for more than 60 years! In fact, Art says it's the only way they stay in touch.
AZUZ: When you care enough to send the very best, over and over and over and over...
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