If you grew up during the space race of the 1960s, you probably thought that tourist flights into space would be common by now. Sadly, nobody is honeymooning on the moon just yet. But a new poll shows that most Americans actually have no desire to go to space — even if the trip was free.
Monmouth University in New Jersey has the new poll with the somewhat surprising results. When asked if they’d like to go to space with a private space company, a whopping 69 per cent of Americans said that they wouldn’t. Even if the company were offering the trips at absolutely no cost! Only 28 per cent said they’d take the free trip.
The poll might be surprising to weirdos (like myself) who think there would be nothing cooler than dipping our toes into the final frontier. But it’s actually fairly consistent with American sentiment in the 20th century. As the Monmouth poll notes, a Gallup poll from 1966 found that only 17 per cent of Americans wanted to be on the first flight to the moon.
Admittedly, being the first is certainly different than venturing out on proven technology. But that’s in many ways what we’re dealing with today. In fact, our modern lack of enthusiasm might have some direct links to last year’s disastrous test of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo, which left one pilot dead and another severely injured.
Question from the Monmouth University poll
Other takeaways from the poll? Just 51 per cent of Americans think that an increase in spending on our space program is a good investment. For what it’s worth, that’s higher than the 35-45 per cent who thought the Apollo space program was a good investment during the 1960s. That’s right, even during the height of the space race, most Americans thought the space program was a waste of money. So space nerds should be hesitant about romanticizing some golden age of public opinion when we all rallied behind astronauts and universally supported funding of the space program. That overwhelmingly positive sentiment never existed.
So what about the future? Roughly 44 per cent of Americans think that ordinary people will likely be travelling to space in the next 20-30 years. But most Americans are happy to let those space tourists be someone other than themselves.
Image: April 29, 2013 file photo from Virgin Galactic shows SpaceShipTwo via AP