Space: How important is our space program?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Space
Project Mercury Astronauts 1959

“THE RIGHT STUFF” Project Mercury Astronauts in 1959, front row, left to right, Walter H. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. Gus Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper.

NASA—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—was founded in 1958. Since then, NASA’s cumulative budget (adjusted for inflation) has been almost $800 billion, according to government sources. Peak funding was in the late 1960s with the Apollo program and the moon landing. Funding has fallen dramatically since then.

Is this drop in funding a good thing? How important is our space program?

Just over half of all Americans (52%) say it is extremely or very important that we “maintain the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States space program,” according to a YouGov poll late last year. An additional 28% say it’s moderately important, bringing the total to 80% of Americans who say it’s at least moderately important to maintain NASA and the space program.

Why is maintaining the space program important? Here are five possible reasons. How would you rank them?

  • “The space mission drives technological progress that trickles into other parts of the economy.”
  • “Exploration and discovery are essential for human progress.”
  • “Space technology is an important element of our telecommunications infrastructure.”
  • “Space is an important element of our defense strategy.”
  • “It is important to support human excellence in all its forms.”

These are the top five reasons given by those who think it’s important to maintain the U.S. space program, according to YouGov. And, I presented them in order from most to least support. Trickle-down benefits to the economy are the most popular reason, given by 58% of those who support the program. But a close second is more romantic and idealistic—space exploration and discovery are essential for human progress.

How important do you think it is to maintain NASA and the U.S. space program?

If you think it’s important, what are your reasons?

Do you agree with reasons above—or is something else on your list?

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