The American public overwhelmingly support a doubling of NASA’s budget in order to fund a mission to Mars, according to a recent survey. The poll, commissioned by Explore Mars, a nonprofit organization, and aerospace contractor Boeing, also demonstrated a high degree of enthusiasm about human exploration of Mars.
The survey found that 76 percent of Americans agree that NASA’s budget should be increased to 1 percent of the total federal budget to fund initiatives, including a mission to Mars. Currently NASA’s budget represents less than 0.5 percent of overall federal spending.
Poll respondents said they think a manned mission to Mars should be the country’s top priority in space exploration. The poll also showed that, in spite of the current budgetary climate, Americans remain very optimistic about the prospect of putting humans on Mars within the next two decades, with 71 percent saying they expect it will happen by 2033.
And while NASA does have a goal for a manned mission to Mars by 2033, a recent report by the National Research Council found that NASA lacks the funding and strategic direction needed to achieve their goals. The committee behind the report laid blame on both the executive and legislative branches for failing to establish a clear vision for the future of American space exploration.
NASA has repeatedly argued that they lack the funding necessary to accomplish their many goals and have called on Congress to increase their budget. As NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently explained to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the reason the agency is favoring a manned mission to an asteroid over the moon is because “going to the moon is a factor of three (times) more expensive.” Bolden told the committee bluntly that Congress has not given NASA enough money to return humans to the moon.
With both missions viewed as natural precursors to a manned mission to Mars, many in Congress remain skeptical of the Obama administration’s goal of sending astronauts to an asteroid, instead wanting the drama of manned missions to the moon. Between the politics surrounding NASA’s budget and each presidential administration changing the course of American space exploration, NASA is stuck trying to accomplish both goals on an ever diminishing budget.
This corresponds with what poll respondents reported, saying the biggest barriers to a manned mission to Mars are politics and affordability. Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, agrees that the greatest obstacle to the goal of putting humans on Mars is the lack of political leadership on the issue, saying, “We hope that this poll can serve a catalyst to reinforce what Americans already support and encourage our nation’s leaders that this is not the time to retreat.”
The poll was conducted by global communications firm Phillips & Company between Feb. 4 and Feb. 6, 2013 surveying a random sample of 1,101 respondents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Read the full report here: