On December 14, 1972, astronaut Gene Cernan entered the Apollo 17 lunar module to return to Earth. He was the last man to walk on the moon. If it belonged to most Americans, it would stay that way.
An Ipsos poll commissioned by C-SPAN on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 historic moon landing indicates that only 8% of Americans believe that a mission on moon-dressed should be a top priority for NASA.
"Our general mentality as an American people is this: summer, do that, get the t-shirt, why are we doing this?" Sean O 'Keefe, former NASA Administrator and current professor at Syracuse University.
"But if Lewis and Clark had said, we'll go west once, then stop, because we did that?"
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Eighteen percent say that a human mission on Mars should be a priority for NASA. The current plans of the agency plan to use the moon as a stepping stone to the red planet.
In March, the Trump government had instructed NASA to bring Americans back to the moon in five years, but according to a poll, 52 percent of Americans believe that space exploration should focus on satellite monitoring of the earth so to understand environmental changes, while 32% I think that space exploration should aim to improve national security.
"NASA does not set its goals after all, it does what political leaders ask it to do and finances," said John Logsdon, an expert on space policy at George Washington University.
The Ipsos poll did not ask about asteroid defense, which has been heavily supported by other investigations, as it is not a NASA mission .
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"I think when people think about what these lunar missions are going to do, the fact that we're going to inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists, and doctors, the kind of technology that we have to invent and how that's done. echoing the economy and making our country stronger, "said Mark Kirasich, program manager at Orion, the NASA capsule being built to send humans to the moon.
"I think these things really add something very important that people will appreciate, if not today, as we go into life."
This is not the first time that public opinion is not associated with space policy. Support for an inhabited lunar mission was not very high during the Apollo era. A 1965 Gallup poll found that only 39% of Americans thought that the United States should do everything possible, regardless of cost, to be the first nation on the moon.
According to previous studies, the American public has long recognized the value of space missions. It is only 30 years after Apollo 11, in 1999, that 55% of citizens realized that the benefits of space exploration exceeded the billions of dollars invested in costs.
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This number has decreased. The new Ipsos poll found that 31% of Americans felt the benefits of space exploration outweighed the costs. Another 41% say the benefits and costs are about equal.
NASA continues its mission on the moon, dubbed Artemis after the twin sister of Apollo. His goal is to send the first woman and the next man to the moon by 2024.
Americans today have in common with the public of the Apollo era the desire to be the first or to stay ahead. When the issue of lunar missions is defined as a competition with other countries, support for a lunar mission is much higher.
Forty-nine percent Americans believe that "the United States should resume its missions to explore the moon to catch up with countries like China and Israel".
"If China shows up on the moon a little by surprise and says it's now a Chinese moon and not an American moon, then I think our competitiveness will be engaged," Logsdon said.
When it comes to comparing NASA to commercial space companies, NASA is widely preferred. 78% Americans have a favorable view of NASA while only 27% think that space exploration should be taken over by private companies.
This may be due to their desire to keep the space "wild", with 52% of respondents believing that most of the solar system should be kept as an official official nature, as in national parks. , in order to limit the exploitation of moons, asteroids or planets, stated objectives of several private space companies.
As far as space tourism is concerned, only 31% of Americans would go into space if they had the opportunity.
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Follow Rachael Joy on Twitter @Rachael_Joy.
This article was originally published on Florida Today: Moon landing: Americans support NASA but not the return of the moon, according to a poll