This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Jan. 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The exploration of space has led to advances in weather forecasting, in communications, in computing, search-and-rescue technology, robotics and electronics.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: President Bush launching a new initiative to further explore our universe, outlining some of the side benefits that have grown out of space travel. The president unveiling an ambition plan to colonize the moon and put earthlings, that's us, on Mars (search). Roger Handberg is professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a specialist in space and defense policy. Today's big question -- how will the world benefit from sending human to mars?

ROGER HANDBERG, UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: Well, the benefits from sending humans to mars become part of the process of getting there. It's the technology development and all the other things. The president's statement and refers to monitoring of heartbeat etcetera, things like that. Things that were developed for the space program. So for the point of development it's the technology and development which is one thing the United States has consistently done since the end of World War II. We've used either defense spending or in the '60's space spending in order to jump-start various areas of technology.

And I think this is an extension of that, although you have to realize that this is going to be a slow-start program. He is only adding about $200 million a year for the first five years. And then the money comes when the shuttle program shuts down and the space station commitment ends in 2013. At that point, you will see more money put into the development process rather than just operations. And I think that's what ...

GIBSON: OK. But, Roger, here's the deal. You know what is going to happen. We're going to say telecommunications, new materials, Teflon on frying pans, Tang, whatever has come out of the space program. And the critics are going to say militarizing space. He wants to get on the moon to have the best shot at some country on earth, wants to get to mars to get there and get our weapons there. Is there some advantage to, you know, doing all this space work in military terms?

HANDBERG: In terms of the military, no, not directly. You are going to improve the technology, especially the launch capacity. The biggest problem the United States has is it costs us about $10,000 a pound to orbit, not counting the shuttle. That's an extraordinarily high cost to conduct any kind of space operation, whether it's economic space commerce, or whether it's military or it's exploration. We spend more money sending things than we do building them to get them ready to go. So I think that is going to be the big benefit. The military is not going to go to the moon to use it, because we went through that argument back in the '50's and early '60's, where they had scenarios about moon bases where you can launch missiles. It takes the missile three days to get here. It is just easier to launch it from South Dakota toward the Soviet Union, at that point, than it is to cart it all the way up to the moon at $10,000 a pound, and then shoot it back.

GIBSON: Right. OK. Well, let's back up here a little. Is there any way to actually make money by exploring space? Is there something out there to be mined? Is there something out there to be brought back? Is there something we're not focusing on here in which commerce is a big deal?

HANDBERG: Well, the commerce development is what is the great unknown. The money that is made in space and there's a lot of money made in space enterprises is made on what we call earth orbit from the moon in. Basically, we have communication satellite navigation. You have remote sensing. You have all those kind of applications. Basically, we move information because information can be moved electronically. You don't have to spend $10,000 a pound to move it. The arguments for mining are more distant because what you have got to do are manufacturing in space because the cost factors are so high. If you go to space to make super manufactured, micro gravity, manufacturing to make super pure drugs, that drug better be extraordinary or unique.

The bigger argument that is made by some people, some of the astronauts who have talked about it, is helium three for a fusion reactor. Well, that's a good use. It potentially could solve our energy problem in the globe, the United States and everyone else included, but the problem is you got to make fusion work first. And that's been a 20-year project. I started studying energy policy 20 years ago. They talked about fusion reactions 20 years ago. Now 20 years later they're talking like it's 20 years out. We're getting closer, but it is more incremental than I think people expect. There's a lot of what you might call moonbeam selling that occurs in the ...

GIBSON: Yes. No, I know. So you get to the point of asking well, aside from just the act of doing it, going to space, getting to the moon, getting to mars, what is the point?

HANDBERG: Well, the point is that you develop the technologies to do it and those technologies do have what we used to call traditionally spin- offs. And those spin-offs are real. A lot of the stuff that the communication industry uses was developed through the military space program and it was spun off when we were at the end of the Cold War.

GIBSON: You are telling me, Mr. Handberg. We're coming to the world right now on the satellites you guys put up there. Roger Handberg, appreciate it. More as we start to explore space, whenever that starts. Mr. Handberg, appreciate it.

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