There’s a thin line between optimism and flat-out lunacy. Optimism is when you look at a glass half-filled with water and you see it as half-full. Lunacy is when you think that selling the water will make you King of the Galaxy. As we all know, a poll is the quickest way to judge a group of people on their mental and emotional facilities, and while average Americans might not be crazy themselves, their optimism when it comes to NASA certainly is.
An independent market research team at Phillips & Company conducted a survey sponsored by Explore Mars, Inc. and The Boeing Corporation called “Mars Generation”. The survey polled a random sampling of 1,101 people via email, and the results were overwhelmingly clear that people don’t understand how relatively little money NASA has to work with in order to produce the amazing projects and experiments that they’re known for. Considering the whole point of the survey was to measure how much people supported human and robots exploring Mars, I suppose even misinformed positivity is a good sign.
So let’s talk about these results. In the opinion of 71 percent of Americans, Mars will definitely see human contact in the next two decades. Sixty-seven percent agreed the U.S. sending both humans and robots to Mars is a good idea, after they were told there are two working rovers on Mars already.
When it comes to NASA’s budget, on average, the respondents believed that the U.S. spends around 2.4 percent of the entire federal budget on NASA. The actual percentage of government funding they receive is around 0.5 percent, at around $17.7 billion. As a comparison, the Apollo heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s only brought NASA around 2.8 percent of the federal budget. When these numbers were revealed to the survey participants, 75 percent naturally agreed that it’s “worthwhile to increase NASA’s percentage of the federal budget to 1 percent to fund a mission to Mars.”
When asked about hindrances potentially keeping humans away from Mars, 73 percent think it’s an affordability issue, and 67 percent assume politics have something to do with it. Oddly enough, technological capabilities don’t appear to worry anyone, and neither does personal motivation.
When asked what the best reasons for humans exploring Mars were, most agree it’s to achieve a greater understanding of the Red Planet, followed by a search for signs of life. Third on the list is to “maintain U.S. leadership in commercial, scientific, and national defense applications.”
I suppose the best way to judge someone is to ask them if they think there is an America on Mars, and if they answer yes, we put them on the next rocketship out of here.