Americans Think NASA Should Focus On Space Exploration, Pew Research Center Survey Shows

Sergey NivensShuttersock

Private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Boeing, Bigelow Airspace, and Lockheed Martin have outdone governments and embarked on what Futurism referred to as Space Race 2.0. In February this year, Elon Musk successfully launched his new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

As the Inquisitr reported at the time, following his company’s monumental success, Musk told reporters that he hopes the Falcon Heavy launch will inspire an international space race. It may, but most Americans still believe NASA’s role will be vital in the future.

Pew Research Center published the results of their newest survey today.

Seventy-two percent of Americans think it is essential for the United States to remain a global leader in space exploration. Furthermore, 80 percent of Americans think the space station has been a good investment for the country.

Although the media seems infatuated with private companies like Musk’s SpaceX, Americans remain traditionally confident in NASA. According to Pew Research Center, 65 percent of Americans think it is essential that NASA stays involved in space exploration. Only 33 percent of American adults think private companies have the ability to ensure progress and explore the space, without National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s help.

Majority of Americans say it is essential for U.S. to be a leader in space exploration …

From launching satellites for studying the Earth’s atmosphere to exploring distant planets, NASA oversees a wide array of space-exploration-related activities. Pew Research Center asked survey participants to rate the importance of the following nine missions.

  1. Sending astronauts to the moon
  2. Sending astronauts to Mars
  3. Searching for life and planets that could sustain life
  4. Searching for raw materials to use on Earth
  5. Research on how space travel affects human health
  6. Developing technologies that could be adapted for other use
  7. Conducting research to increase knowledge of space
  8. Monitoring asteroids
  9. Monitoring parts of Earth’s climate system

The results show that 13 percent of Americans consider sending astronauts to the moon a top priority. Similarly, 18 percent consider sending astronauts to Mars to be a top priority. Forty-two percent of surveyed Americans believe NASA should search for planets that could sustain life, and 41 percent think it is important — although not top priority — that the agency conducts research on how space travel affects human health.

Forty-one percent of Americans think developing technologies that could be adapted for other uses to be important, but of lower priority. Conducting research to increase knowledge of space is a top priority for 47 percent of Americans, but 62 percent think monitoring objects that could hit Earth is a top priority. Likewise, monitoring parts of Earth’s climate system is a top priority for 63 percent of American adults.

More Americans view monitoring climate or asteroids as top NASA priorities than do so for sending astronauts to the moon or Mars

Although most Americans believe NASA should spearhead space exploration, they also think private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic can make meaningful contributions of their own. Forty-seven percent of surveyed Americans expressed a fair amount of confidence that private companies could conduct basic research and increase our knowledge of space.

Twenty-six percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence that private companies will be able to build safe and reliable spacecraft, and 23 percent don’t have too much confidence, or have no confidence at all. Most Americans, 80 percent of them, displayed confidence that private companies will make a profit from space exploration.

Many are confident private space companies will be profitable but skeptical they will keep space clean

A majority of Americans think space tourism is not for them, although half of Americans believe people will routinely travel in space as tourists within the next 50 years. Only 27 percent of baby boomers are interested in space tourism, but as much as 63 percent of millennials would like to travel into space as tourists.

“Strong public support that the U.S. should continue to be at the vanguard of space exploration is widely shared across gender, educational and political groups. Indeed, on most issues regarding NASA and space exploration, there are no more than modest differences among the generational cohorts,” Pew Research Center concluded.