Most Americans think the U.S. should remain a leader in space, according to the latest Pew research. Many consider monitoring Earth’s climate or asteroids to be top priorities for NASA. Fewer think that sending astronauts to the moon or Mars is a priority for the 60-year old agency.
More than half of Americans say they would not be interested in going into space, citing cost, fear, and age or health concerns. * Therefore, an expanded definition of the automakers quest to transform into mobility companies does not include to go where no man has gone before at this time.
In a national survey of 2,541 U.S. adults conducted 27 March – 9 April 2018, roughly seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say it is essential for the U.S. to continue to be a world leader in space exploration. Strong public support is widely shared across gender, generational, educational and political groups. Also, some 80% of Americans say the International Space Station has been a good investment for the country.
Pew concedes that in the decades since the U.S. landed astronauts on the moon, space exploration has changed significantly as other countries have expanded their capabilities, and private companies have taken on larger roles. Some 65% of Americans believe that NASA’s role in space exploration is essential, with only 33% saying that private companies will ensure that enough progress is made in space exploration without NASA’s involvement.
When asked to rate the importance of nine specific missions found in NASA’s scope of projects, majorities say monitoring key parts of the Earth’s climate system or monitoring asteroids and other objects that could hit Earth should be top priorities for NASA (63% and 62% respectively). Fewer Americans think crewed space missions should be top priorities, with just 18% saying that sending astronauts to Mars should be a top priority and only 13% saying the same about the moon. Welcome to the age of drones.
However, if NASA were to send expeditions into space, a difficult proposition given the Republican anti-science bias and their growing deficits, most Americans say they consider it essential that humans, not solely robots, make the trip. Overall, 58% of U.S. adults believe it is essential to include the use of human astronauts in the future U.S. space program, but 41% say astronauts are not essential.
Also, half of Americans believe people will routinely travel to space as tourists within the next 50 years. But more anticipate that they would not want to orbit the Earth than say they would (58% to 42%). Interest in orbiting the Earth is greater among younger generations, not surprisingly.
Other Pew Space Findings
Many Americans are confident private space companies will be profitable, but are more skeptical they will keep space clean, perhaps from their earth-bound experience with industrial pollution. Americans are more skeptical that private companies will minimize human-made space debris, with only 13% saying they have a great deal of confidence; 35% saying they have a fair amount of confidence; and 51% saying they have not too much or no confidence at all.
Some 44% have a great deal of confidence that private companies will make a profit in space-related ventures and 36% say they are confident they will be profitable. Whether this involves massive taxpayer subsidies was not stated. Most Americans also express confidence that these private companies will build safe and reliable rockets and spacecraft, with 26% expressing a great deal of confidence and 51% having at least a fair amount of confidence.
The 7% of the public that is “highly attentive” to news about NASA and private space companies tends to express more confidence in these companies to handle key aspects of space exploration. For example, 95% of those who are most attentive to news about space have at least a fair amount of confidence that private companies will build safe and reliable rockets and spacecraft; 58% of this group has a great deal of confidence that companies will do this.
- The 58% of U.S. adults who say they wouldn’t want to orbit the Earth aboard a spacecraft believe that such a trip would be either “too expensive” (28% of those asked) or “too scary” (28%), or that their age or health wouldn’t allow it (28%).
Among the 42% of Americans who would be interested in traveling into space, 45% of them say the main reason for their interest would be to “experience something unique.” Some 29% of this group says they would go so that they can see the view of Earth from space, while 20% want to “learn more about the world.”
Interest in orbiting the Earth is greater among younger generations and among men. Some 63% of Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) say they are or probably interested in space tourism, compared with 39% of Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980) and 27% of those in the Baby Boomer or older generations. Across all generations, men are more likely than women (51% vs. 33%) to say they are interested in traveling into space as tourists.
Forget Space Exploration?
Compared with ratings of other NASA programs, fewer Americans say crewed space exploration should be a top priority. Potential priorities:
- Monitoring key parts of Earth’s climate system: 63% said it should be a top NASA priority; 25% said it should be an important but lower priority; and 11% said it is not too important or should not be done.
- Monitoring asteroids or other objects that could hit Earth: 62% top priority.
- Conducting basic scientific research to increase knowledge and understanding of space: 47% top priority.
- Developing technologies that could be adapted for other uses: 41% top priority.
- Conducting research on how space travel affects human health: 38% top priority.
- Searching for raw materials and natural resources for use on Earth: 34% top priority.
- Searching for life and planets that could support life: 31% top priority.
- Sending astronauts to Mars: 18% top priority, 45% important but lower priority, 37% not too important or should not be done.
- Sending astronauts to the moon: 13% top priority, 42% important but lower priority, 44% not too important or should not be done.
Read the report: http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/06/06/majority-of-americans-believe-it-is-essential-that-the-u-s-remain-a-global-leader-in-space