Author Topic: Poll: Majority of Americans Believe Essential US Remain Global Leader in Space  (Read 1852 times)


Offline yg1968

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Offline JH

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I'm particularly interested in the fact that basic research beat out the search for life by a decent margin.

I had a disagreement with a colleague several years ago in which he claimed that the only planetary mission objectives that carried any weight with the public (and, as a result, those with the power of the purse) were those that were related to the search for life. I told him that he was selling the public short. It's nice to know that my faith wasn't misplaced.

Yeah the public often understands more than many give them credit for.
Also I would like to point out, before someone tries to spin this as 'people don't care about human space exploration', that public opinion is based on what they (we) can see in a field that isn't ours, not on future perspectives.
So, to the public, human exploration as is (costly, slow, leading nowhere) is useless. And rightfully so.
It's up to the 'experts', the real players in human space exploration to show them, concretely, how the future can be bright and worth it.
So far they haven't been up to the job, with a few exceptions. Evidently those few exceptions still aren't enough.
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Offline Jim

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I feel validated

Offline meberbs

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Yeah the public often understands more than many give them credit for.
Also I would like to point out, before someone tries to spin this as 'people don't care about human space exploration', that public opinion is based on what they (we) can see in a field that isn't ours, not on future perspectives.
So, to the public, human exploration as is (costly, slow, leading nowhere) is useless. And rightfully so.
It's up to the 'experts', the real players in human space exploration to show them, concretely, how the future can be bright and worth it.
So far they haven't been up to the job, with a few exceptions. Evidently those few exceptions still aren't enough.
I'd say even that is taking the poll's results too far. 80% say that research on human health in space should be done (about half of that say top priority, half lower priority).

More than 50% listed moon or Mars landings as something that should be done, though few said top priority. This indicates to me that plenty of people see that human space exploration future can be "bright and worth it" but they don't see it as something that can be or should be done right now. Human health in space, which scored highly is something we have the capability to do right now. NASA has no plans that would enable landings on the moon or Mars for a decade or more. The poll results say that the mahority think that work towards that future should still be done in the background.

This poll makes a lot of sense from the perspective that "we don't have the technology today that enables useful moon/Mars missions." Since many in the space industry would agree with that (goals of BFR and Blue Origin including changing that perspective) I'd say that the poll shows most people are surprisingly in touch.

One note is that poll is slightly selective in who took it. The percentages exclude "no answer." That population would likely include people whose first reaction is "wait NASA still exists?" Yes, such people exist, I have gotten that reaction more than once.

Offline Nomadd

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 Next time you take a public poll like this throw a few questions in like "Which science affects your life more, astronomy or astrology?", and "Which is bigger, Jupiter or Ceres?"
 Just to get some perspective. Most of them answer these polls with only a vague, completely inaccurate concept of what "space" even is.
 The art of getting the results you want by the phrasing of the questions is older than Adam.
« Last Edit: 06/07/2018 04:08 PM by Nomadd »

Offline Rocket Science

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Just to get some perspective. Most of them answer these polls with only a vague, completely inaccurate concept of what "space" even is.
It's what's between their ears... ::)
« Last Edit: 06/07/2018 04:13 PM by Rocket Science »
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Online Coastal Ron

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Yeah the public often understands more than many give them credit for.

One constant seems to be that the public recognizes the value of science, whether that is being done in space or here on Earth.

Human exploration is not really science per se, since we have robotic systems that can do exploration for less money, and while the search for alien life requires science, it's not really a scientific endeavor - it gets thrown into human related issues of discovery, religion and other messy topics.

Not to say that the public wouldn't support exploration or the search for alien life at all, just that it needs to have some immediacy to it that the public understands.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline yg1968

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I noticed that what NASA is currently doing (for example, ISS) is more popular than what we are not currently doing (going to the Moon). I suspect that if we were already going to the Moon, it would be more popular. The other thing is that I suspect that most people believe that going to the Moon would cost a fortune and there is no appetite for that kind of spending increase. Others probably believe that space exploration should be done by private companies or billionaires.
« Last Edit: 06/07/2018 11:31 PM by yg1968 »

Online Coastal Ron

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I noticed that what NASA is currently doing (for example, ISS) is more popular than what we are not currently doing (going to the Moon).

I suspect that is because the ISS is a National Laboratory, and the public does support "science". Going to the Moon would not be perceived as doing "science", even if some science is being done along the way.

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I suspect that if we were already going to the Moon, it would be more popular.

Don't bet money on that proposition. According to this article on Space.com:

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The only time when more than half of the public believed Apollo was worth the expense came at the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969, when Neil Armstrong took humanity's first steps on alien soil. Even then, only a lukewarm 53 percent of the public believed such a momentous historical occasion had been worth the cost.

Going to the Moon in the 60's was tied to the Cold War, and yet it did not have overwhelming support in the public eye. Today we don't really have a big reason to return to the Moon, so I doubt the current public would be very supportive either.

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The other thing is that I suspect that most people believe that going to the Moon would cost a fortune and there is no appetite for that kind of spending increase.

Historically Congress has not been supportive of returning to our Moon or going to Mars because of the huge cost, and it would still be very expensive for NASA to go to either. But it's not the cost that is the biggest barrier, but the "Why?" is not well defined as of today. Why do we need to send government employees to our Moon or Mars?

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Others probably believe that space exploration should be done by private companies or billionaires.

I don't think people give it much thought because they don't know that there is much value in doing things in space for either private companies or billionaires. Which is pretty accurate today.

And I think they understand the difference between what Elon Musk wants to do with colonizing Mars vs what the U.S. Government wants to do in space, with knowing that what Musk does won't cost them anything.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline yg1968

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What Elon Musk does, won't cost NASA any money? Musk wants NASA as a customer. NASA won't get to ride for free.

As to the rest of your post, by your logic, we shouldn't be doing any human exploration at all.


Online Coastal Ron

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What Elon Musk does, won't cost NASA any money? Musk wants NASA as a customer. NASA won't get to ride for free.

The U.S. Government (which includes NASA) is under no requirement to write checks to Elon Musk for Mars colonization.

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As to the rest of your post, by your logic, we shouldn't be doing any human exploration at all.

I think America's HSF goals in space are very unclear right now, which means it's not just the American public that would not be supportive of sending government employees back to our Moon, but also Congress. And in the 7+ years since the SLS and Orion were created by Congress, Congress has not seen fit to authorize any long-term BEO efforts that require humans, which kind of confirms there is currently little interest in HSF beyond LEO.

Elect me President and I will have very clear goals:

The goal of the United States of America is to expand our economic sphere of influence out into space, starting with a reusable transportation system to the region of our Moon. NASA, which is the premier space technology organization in the world, will support this effort by helping our private sector to tackle the challenges they face in creating profitable business ventures that rely on activities in space.

BOOM! (mic drop)  ;)
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline AncientU

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If the survey questions were phrased like that, instead of 'sending astronauts to the Moon' (a.k.a., Apollo model) the results would be different IMO.  As phrased, why bother doing over what we did 50 years ago...
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Offline yg1968

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What Elon Musk does, won't cost NASA any money? Musk wants NASA as a customer. NASA won't get to ride for free.

The U.S. Government (which includes NASA) is under no requirement to write checks to Elon Musk for Mars colonization.

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As to the rest of your post, by your logic, we shouldn't be doing any human exploration at all.

I think America's HSF goals in space are very unclear right now, which means it's not just the American public that would not be supportive of sending government employees back to our Moon, but also Congress. And in the 7+ years since the SLS and Orion were created by Congress, Congress has not seen fit to authorize any long-term BEO efforts that require humans, which kind of confirms there is currently little interest in HSF beyond LEO.

Elect me President and I will have very clear goals:

The goal of the United States of America is to expand our economic sphere of influence out into space, starting with a reusable transportation system to the region of our Moon. NASA, which is the premier space technology organization in the world, will support this effort by helping our private sector to tackle the challenges they face in creating profitable business ventures that rely on activities in space.

BOOM! (mic drop)  ;)

I never said that NASA was under any obligation to pay SpaceX anything. But if you look at the past trend, NASA has been one of SpaceX's main customer and that trend is likely to continue in the future.

As to your second point, my understanding is that space mining only makes sense if you are going to use these ressources in space. Unless you have a colony in space (or a Moon village, etc.). I am not sure that there is a market for that at this point in time.

I believe that space tourism is a market but it's currently only a small market for billionaires. Of course the cheaper space transportation is, the larger the space tourism market becomes.

I am a big fan of Blue and SpaceX but I think that both these companies most important customers will be or will continue to be governments (including NASA) for the foreseeable future.
« Last Edit: 06/08/2018 05:41 PM by yg1968 »

Online Coastal Ron

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I never said that NASA was under any obligation to pay SpaceX anything. But if you look at the past trend, NASA has been one of SpaceX's main customer and that trend is likely to continue in the future.

SpaceX is one of many contractors that NASA relies upon. Why do you focus only on them?

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As to your second point, my understanding is that space mining only makes sense if you are going to use these ressources in space. Unless you have a colony in space (or a Moon village, etc.). I am not sure that there is a market for that at this point in time.

I never said there were profitable markets at this point in time. But certainly part of the reason for that is the cost of doing things in space, so having NASA revert to it's NACA roots in order to help the private sector make space more affordable seems like a good idea to me. One of the core functions of our government is to help the private sector when doing so helps the overall U.S. economy. And the history of NACA shows how significant that help can be.

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I believe that space tourism is a market but it's currently only a small market for billionaires. Of course the cheaper space transportation is, the larger the space tourism market becomes.

I never said space tourism was supposed to be significant. In fact my opinion has always been that tourism is not a leader, but a follower - meaning that tourism won't be a significant industry in space until we have industry and commerce in space first. Tourism by itself cannot afford to pay for all of the support required, so it must leverage existing infrastructure.

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I am a big fan of Blue and SpaceX but I think that both these companies most important customers will be or will continue to be governments (including NASA) for the foreseeable future.

Fast forward to the post-ISS era, and assume that Congress has not decided to fund a return-to-Moon program - other than launching scientific payloads, why would NASA need SpaceX as a contractor?

However, during that same time period, SpaceX is planning already be landing humans on Mars. Wouldn't a good use of NASA's capabilities be to help SpaceX and other American aerospace companies to solve the problems of colonizing Mars? And generally pushing humans out into space?

Remember America really only went to the Moon because of the Cold War, not because of "science". And the Shuttle and ISS have been diminishing echos of Apollo. Today we rely on inertia to justify sending government employees back to our Moon, but there is little enthusiasm for that. Which we should be OK with, since that's been the status quo for over 4 decades.

But the U.S. public does support science, which is why I think the ISS does have good support. And having the U.S. Government help our aerospace industry to solve the problems of expanding humanity out into space - without the U.S. Government leading the way - would likely be viewed as a good use of public money.

We have to separate our dreams from the reality of the situation. Space is expensive, and the U.S. Government doesn't have a reason to send government employees out exploring in space - nor colonizing other worlds.

And we really have no idea when the private sector will find sustainable business models that support expanding humanity out into space. It could be soon, or it may be generations into the future. But we know the #1 reason for holding us back is the cost of doing things in space, so why shouldn't that be the #1 goal to be worked on?
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline AncientU

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...

And we really have no idea when the private sector will find sustainable business models that support expanding humanity out into space. It could be soon, or it may be generations into the future. But we know the #1 reason for holding us back is the cost of doing things in space, so why shouldn't that be the #1 goal to be worked on?

Sustainable models aren't delivered in the mail, they are arrived at by people/businesses that venture out to find them.  If the cost of getting to LEO remained where it was ten years ago, it is highly unlikely any business in space could be found that was sustainable... the price of entry would be too high and the number of ventures would remain near zero. 

Instead of lowering the cost to LEO, the USG has maintained it at a prohibitive level... an unsustainable level even for the USAF/NRO which have more money than God.  Now, the best they can do is either get out of the way or actually try to facilitate those who can significantly reduce the cost of access.  The latter would be great, but I'd settle for the former.
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