Comets or robots? The Moon or Mars? A recent poll asked questions about space travel and research. Such exploration costs billions of dollars. How would you like to see those financial resources spent?
Many people believe space exploration is important. Today, multiple NASA probes explore weather forecasting and gravity waves. But it has been 47 years since U.S. astronauts last walked on Earth’s Moon. The Trump Administration wants NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2024.
“The God who made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24) is surely pleased when humans wisely study His vast creation. But what do ordinary Americans want?
Toni Dewey hails from North Carolina. “It would cost a lot of money to send somebody to Mars,” she says, “and we have roads and bridges that need repaired [sic] here.”
Alan Curtis of Idaho disagrees. He considers the Moon and Mars top priorities, especially if the United States is to remain a world leader in space. “It’s pretty bad that we have to rent a spot on a Russian spacecraft to get to the space station,” he says.
Iowan Abdul Lotiff also favors a return to the Moon. He sees economic benefits there, with new tech shaping other areas.
In May, an Associated Press poll asked 1,137 adults around the country about the importance of certain U.S. space programs. Here are the results in order of how Americans ranked those programs by calling such research “very or extremely important”:
1. monitoring asteroids, comets, and other objects that could hit Earth
2. increasing knowledge of Earth and the rest of the universe
3. sending robotic probes, not astronauts, to explore space
4. funding the International Space Station
5. searching for life on other planets
6. exploring Mars
7. exploring/landing on the Moon
8. building permanent human residences on other planets
9. establishing a U.S. military presence in space
The survey also asked Americans to choose specifically between Moon and Mars exploration. Twice as many people picked studying the red planet. As Dewey notes about the Moon, “We’ve been there.”
It’s true. There have been six crewed Moon landings. During each one, astronauts planted flags on the Moon. But the United States hasn’t moonwalked in so long that Curtis wonders, “Is the flag even still there?” The American public may have to wait until 2024 to find out.