By: Qinwei Wu
A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center on Thursday found that most American adults wanted NASA to focus on monitoring potentially deadly asteroids, rather than returning astronauts to the moon.
The poll asked the participants to rank the importance of nine different missions. 60 percent of adults said monitoring asteroids should be the top priority, and only 12 percent thought returning astronauts to the moon should be the top priority.
The current mission to send astronauts into the moon is Artemis II, which is scheduled at the end of 2024. NASA is presently facing cuts in their budget and they have been fighting for funds with Congress to land astronauts onto the moon by 2025.
According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the United States and China are in a space race right now, and both want to send astronauts to the moon’s south pole—which contains frozen water—by 2030.
The Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which was established by NASA in 2016, has been monitoring asteroids that might come too close to earth. NASA estimates that over the next 100 years, no known big asteroids are going to strike Earth, but NASA admits they only track about 40% of asteroids.
Additionally, the poll concluded 55 percent of American adults believed within the next 50 years, travelers will frequently visit space, like tourists. However, only 35 percent admitted they “would be interested in orbiting Earth in a spacecraft."
Debris in space has increasingly become a major problem. Even the smallest piece of debris can cause a lot of damage. 26 percent of respondents in the poll said companies were doing a bad job on limiting debris, and 21 percent said companies were doing a good job. The rest were not sure on how companies were handling the issue.
NASA’s first “planetary defense” mission last year crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid, altering its course. Though this mission was just a test, and the asteroid wasn’t a threat to Earth, it showed that NASA was capable of deflecting asteroids that could pose a real threat.
Hopefully, in the future, NASA will start monitoring asteroids more often, satisfying the survey’s results.