Transcript: Shuttle Safety Concerns

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This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," August 1, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Maybe there is a saving grace to all the recent NASA (search) ills, according to my next guest, a chance to look at non-NASA answers.

Joining us now, the first space tourist, if you will, Dennis Tito (search).

Dennis, what do you make of all this NASA fuss?

DENNIS TITO, CEO, WILSHIRE ASSOCIATES: Well, I think it's kind of scary finding out now that there is large chunks of foam falling off the shuttle. I really think it poses a long-term problem as to whether they can ever really fix it.

CAVUTO: Now, the Russians are already saying, look, we have plenty of Soyuz (search), this 40-year-old aircraft that has been pretty reliable, to help with this space station. That was what you flew in. What do you make of that?

TITO: Well, I believe it is very reliable. They haven't had an accident since 1971. And I was very confident flying in that vehicle because it was so well tested. I wouldn't be as confident flying in the shuttle in the future.

CAVUTO: Now, there are a lot of American who are going to hear that, Dennis, and say, well, we're better at the space program than the Russians. Do you quibble with that?

TITO: Well, I think, technologically, we are way ahead of the Russians.

You have to remember that the shuttle was designed over 30 years ago. And I think there was some design flaws in the external tank that are just not going away. But I think, technologically, if you look at what we have done, particularly in the unmanned program, exploring the planet Mars and the outer solar system, we are well advanced over the Russians.

CAVUTO: But do you think that we need a NASA? I mean, even if you wanted to look at the business initiatives to try to explore this privately, it's too gargantuan a cost. So, you still need some sort of a government, quasi-government entity, don't you? Or do you?

TITO: You absolutely need NASA. NASA is extremely important for the future of science.

And I think their mission should be oriented toward exploring the moon, Mars and the remainder of the solar system. And near-Earth orbit can be handled by the commercial sector.

CAVUTO: All right, real quickly, Dennis, if the shuttle folks said, you know, Dennis, you were such a stellar example on that Soyuz flight, we would like you to come up on the next shuttle, would you?

TITO: You could pay me $20 million and I would not fly on the shuttle.

CAVUTO: Because you don't think it's safe?

TITO: Correct.

CAVUTO: All right, Dennis Tito, thank you very much.

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