President Bush's Out-of-This-World Vision

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Dec. 4, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.


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


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: You can tell that's old because it's in black and white. President Bush wants to take that step again as part of a bold, new plan for space travel and exploration. Heather Nauert has more on the president's out-of-this-world vision.

HEATHER NAUERT, FNC CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, President Bush reportedly wants to send Americans back to the moon. Now once we get there, we could explore for energy or even test military rocket engines. The White House and NASA (search) have been discussing this for months and President Bush is expected to announce his plan by early next year.

Joining me now is Apollo 12 (search) Lunar module pilot Alan Bean (search). He is also the fourth man to have walked the moon. He joins us for today's big question, in Houston. What is the upside of going back to the moon?

CAPT. ALAN BEAN, COMMANDER, APOLLO 12: Well, Heather, the upside is we're eventually going to do it, just like Columbus was eventually going to go to the new world or some other explorer would. If Queen Isabella didn't give him the money, somebody else would have come over here. We're destined to move off this planet.

We've been trapped by gravity all these centuries. And we're just beginning to be able to move off the planet. And so we've got to keep doing that. Think about this for a moment. If the dinosaurs had had a space program, they wouldn't be extinct now. They would have spread their DNA (search) to the moon and Mars, and we have to do that. We can't just stay here.

NAUERT: Spoken like a true explorer. Now when you went up in 1969, and were the fourth man to walk the moon, you all really went up there almost on a wing and a prayer, really, compared to today's technology. How could today's technology have made your mission back then perhaps a little even better?

BEAN: Well, for example, the best computer we had to do the job had a memory of 64k. And just a small calculator has more than that now. So we would be able to do it more efficiently, less fuel and that sort of thing. And technology, by the way, in space flight, doesn't move along as fast as technology in some other fields like electronics. So, we would have to do some more R&D. We would have to advance technology in metals, in communications, and all the other things, just as we had to do in Apollo. And, of course, the whole world would benefit from that.

NAUERT: Now what would it actually take, technology wise, to get us up there and establish some sort of permanent space mission up there, if you will?

BEAN: Well, it is going to be more difficult than it is to hold up the international space station. It is going to take bigger rockets. It is going to take more money. It is going to take more will. We have the ability to do this sort of thing and go on to Mars right now.

The question is, do we have the will to do it? Does the president and the Congress have the will to pay the bills, to do this job? We're going to do it eventually. Maybe it isn't this year. Maybe it isn't this century. But we're going to move out to the rest of the universe some day.

NAUERT: Well, you bring up a good point about will, of course, a lot of concerns over NASA and safety. How risky is it to try to send people up there and establish something permanently?

BEAN: Well, first of all, it's a lot further away than is the international space station. So, it is going to be more risky than what we're doing with the shuttle. Also, we'll have to develop new hardware. And anytime you develop new hardware, it's riskier at the beginning than older hardware, like the space shuttle.

So, humans will have to say to ourselves, all of us will have to say this is worth the risk, let's go do it, because we need to take our DNA and spread it around and not just keep it here. Don't forget, our DNA is made of stardust. And it's the most valuable stardust in the universe that we know of. We can't just keep it here on planet Earth. Some comet could come by and hit the Earth. We don't think it will, but it could. And we'd all be extinct, too. We can't do that.

NAUERT: Holy cow. Okay. Well, we certainly hope not.

By the way, for the record, the White House responded to this story today. Scott McClellan said, "This space review is underway. It would be premature to get into any speculation about our space policy. There are no plans for any policy announcements in the immediate future." However, we have certainly heard otherwise that has been reported widely in the press. Captain Alan Bean, thanks for joining us — John.

GIBSON: So there is a call to action. Get your DNA out in space. All right, Heather Nauert, thanks very much.

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