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CNN10 2023-02-14

CNN 10

White House Offers Few Answers On Objects Shot From Sky; The Future Of Spaceport Camden County. Aired 4-4:10a ET

Aired February 14, 2023 - 04:00 ET


WIRE, CNN 10 ANCHOR: What's up, lovely people? Terrific Tuesday to you. I'm Coy Wire. This is CNN 10, where we put together the best minutes in news for you.

So let's maximize these moments, get a little smarter and wiser and have a little fun while doing it. We start today's episode by talking about the air up there.

Is it just me or does it feel like America just can't escape these mysterious threats we've been seeing from the sky? It started a week ago with the incident involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon which was shot down off the South Carolina coast on February 4th, and the deepening national security mystery keeps evolving with U.S. fighter jets blasting three unidentified objects out of the skies three days in a row now.

The latest incident was a high altitude object shot down on Sunday by an F- 16 over Lake Huron which lies between Michigan and Ontario. On Saturday, a missile took down an object flying at 40,000 feet over Central Yukon, way up in northwestern Canada.

And that's just some of the aerial action that's happened in the last few days. No one within the Pentagon, the White House or the government of Canada seems to be able to say what exactly in the world is going on.

We'll hear from CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand who's been following this story and in the coming weeks as this story continues to unfold, you know we'll keep you up to date right here on CNN 10.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): The U.S. on edge, dispatching fighter jets to shoot down yet another mysterious object near Michigan's Lake Huron on Sunday.

The incident is the third time in as many days that the U.S. military has shot down an unidentified object that was assessed to pose a risk to civilian aircraft and unprecedented series of events.

GEN. GLEN VANHERCK, COMMANDER OF NORAD AND USNORTHCOM: I believe this is the first time within the United States of America airspace that NORAD or United States northern command has taken kinetic action against an airborne object.

BERTRAND: On Friday and Saturday, U.S. jets shot down two more objects near Alaska and over northern Canada. Those objects were flying at around forty thousand feet and had balloon-like features with a small metal cylinder underneath officials said.

Sunday's object over Lake Huron was flying at around twenty thousand feet and it was described by officials as octagonal with potential surveillance capabilities.

The incidents have sparked confusion and prompted bipartisan criticism from lawmakers.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), RANKING, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have real concerns about why the administration is not being more forthcoming with everything that it knows. But part of the problem here is that the both of the second and the third objects were shot down in very remote areas. So, my guess is that that there's just not a lot of information out there yet to share.

BERTRAND: After a Chinese spy balloon transited the U.S. earlier this month and was also shot down, the North American aerospace defense command readjusted its filters to better spot slow-moving targets operating above a certain altitude officials said, which may be leading to more detections.

But officials say they won't know more about the objects until they can recover and analyze all of the debris. The incidents have also raised questions about whether similar objects have simply gone undetected in the past and whether shooting each one down is the right response.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): What's been come clear in the public discussion is that we don't really have adequate radar systems. We certainly don't have an integrated missile defense system. We're going to have to begin to look at the United States airspace as one that we need to defend and that we need to have appropriate sensors to do so.


WIRE: Ten-second trivia:

Of the original 13 colonies, which was the last to be established?

Georgia, Rhode Island, North Carolina or Virginia?

Founded in 1732, Georgia was created as a buffer between South Carolina and the Spanish in Florida.

Up next, we're headed to the barrier islands off southeastern Georgia. The region is home to miles of undeveloped beaches, seaside forests, salt marshes and a proposed spaceport hoping to launch rockets directly over the national seashore. This has been quite the controversial topic as you can imagine for nearby communities.

The residents, they don't want their serene and undisturbed lands to be altered. Let's go on the ground to this beautiful region for more.


JIM RENNER, RESIDENT: Directly across the river right there in those trees, that's the spaceport site and actually the proposed launch pad site.

It's crazy to propose to launch rockets over Cumberland Island national seashore.

REPORTER: This is Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island. They're two barrier islands that form part of a wildlife sanctuary off the southeastern coast of Georgia, but a proposed spaceport is hoping to send rockets directly over the national seashore, altering the horizon and stirring controversy in the secluded community. The proposed rocket would also travel over private homes on Little Cumberland Island. This is something that's unprecedented.

SUE HUFF, RESIDENT: My house is five miles downrange from the launch pad. My understanding is I'm directly in the middle of the cone. The fear of rockets going over my head is the failure rate. And with a high failure rate, the concern is debris falling on my property on me.

REPORTER: Small class rockets like the one Spaceport Camden hopes to launch can have up to a 20 percent failure rate. Several of these small class rockets have experienced issues in recent years, showing what can happen when these types of rockets fail.

The odds of a direct impact crash are extremely low, but many residents feel there is no acceptable amount of risk when humans are in the rocket's path.

RENNER: This is part of the Cumberland Island national seashore, and the idea that Camden County thinks they can safely launch rockets over an area like this where there's no opportunity to monitor whether people are here or not, there's no opportunity to bring firefighting equipment on here and to fight a fire in maritime forests like this, it's just ridiculous.

So this is a firebox, one of several that we have stationed along the trails around Little Cumberland Island.

This is our fire station. We've got slappers for putting out if there's a, you know, flames in a ground fire, rakes and they've got a hand operated pump. So take that exploding rocket.

STEVE HOWARD, FORMER SPACEPORT CAMDEN PROJECT LEAD: There's all kinds of you know risks that you have to look at and you have to evaluate it, all those things will be looked at when a company comes forward. You have to prepare for all those things, but they're very remote that that would happen the likelihood of somebody getting hurt worse. Numbers I looked at range from between and million to one in a billion with a B. This is more than just launching rockets. It's about all the opportunities to inspire the next generation. Spaceport Camden will become the Silicon marsh of the East Coast.

REPORTER: In addition to the safety concerns, skeptics point out that the outcome of space will come in is by no means guaranteed and therefore not worth the hefty price tag. Camden County has spent more than $12 million dollars on the project over the last decade. That's taxpayer money some residents say they wish could be spent elsewhere.

The FAA has licensed 14 spaceports across the United States but Spaceport Camden would be the first private spaceport to launch rockets vertically over U.S. citizens a few miles away.

And then there's the potential ecological risks within national park in the proposed trajectory.

HOWARD: What you do in a launch side application process is really a represented rocket. We hope some of those companies at some point will actually come here, you know, in the future. But at this point, it'd be representative. It was never about the rockets that becomes a catalyst economic driver, but you want all this innovation, you want all this high- tech opportunity. You want to drive that innovation and lift up the whole coast of Georgia.

REPORTER: After a series of delays, the county secured a spaceport operator license from the FAA in late 2021. But Camden County residents petitioned for a special election where they overwhelmingly voted to block the county from purchasing the land for the spaceport. In February 2023,

Georgia's Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by Camden County officials, preventing the coastal community from moving forward with the spaceport.


WIRE: Today's story getting a 10 out of 10 -- an owl taking up residence in a library of Agnes Scott College in Georgia for almost a week. After flying in through a chimney, it took days for the school to remove the feathery friend before it was finally released outside on Friday. Students were finally able to use the library again.

I'm telling you, the whole ordeal has become a joke around campus. That poor bird just didn't want to be like Celine Dion. I will by myself. Oh, gosh, I should never sing ever again.

All right, lovely people. Special shout out to Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

And Happy Valentine's Day to you and you and you from me and my team. We're putting up our heart hands for you. Today is a great opportunity to spread some love and appreciation, so go on out and make someone smile today. I'm Coy Wire and we are CNN 10.