Concern over asteroids outweighs interest in Mars
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA—Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts, scientific research and using robots to explore the cosmos over sending humans back to the moon or on to Mars, a new poll shows.
The poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, released on Thursday, one month before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, lists asteroid and comet monitoring as the No. 1 desired objective for the US space program. About two-thirds of Americans call that very or extremely important, and about a combined 9 in 10 call it at least moderately important.
The poll comes as the White House pushes to get astronauts back on the moon, but only about a quarter of Americans said moon or Mars exploration by astronauts should be among the space program’s highest priorities. About another third called each of those moderately important.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, became the first humans to walk on another celestial body. In all, 12 Nasa astronauts stepped on the moon.
Jan Dizard, 78, a retired environmental studies professor living in Chico, California, acknowledges that there’s more to learn on the moon and it would be “miraculous” to send astronauts to Mars. But now’s not the time, he stressed.
“There are all kinds of other things, not the least of which is climate change, that deserve our attention,” Dizard told The Associated Press. “This other stuff can wait.”
Research on Earth et al.
After asteroid and comet monitoring, scientific research to expand knowledge of Earth and the rest of the solar system and universe came next on the list of Americans’ space priorities—about 6 in 10 said that was very or extremely important. Close to half said the same about sending robotic probes, rather than astronauts, to explore space, and about 4 in 10 said the same about continued funding of the International Space Station.
Searching for life on other planets came in fifth with 34 percent rating it at least very important, followed by 27 percent for human Mars expeditions, and 23 percent for crewed moonshots.
In a dead heat for last place among the nine listed goals: setting up permanent human residences on other planets, with 21 percent ranking it as a very high priority, and establishing a US military presence in space with 19 percent. While other goals were considered at least moderately important by majorities of Americans, about half called a military presence and space colonies unimportant.
‘We’ve been there’
Toni Dewey, 71, a retired clerical worker in Wilmington, North Carolina, said space exploration should benefit life on Earth and the explorers should be machines versus humans.
“It would cost a lot of money to send somebody to Mars,” she said, “and we have roads and bridges that need repaired here.”
As for the moon, Dewey noted, “We’ve been there.” —AP