CNN Poll: 50 percent say ending shuttle program is bad for country
July 21st, 2011
10:13 AM ET
11 years ago

CNN Poll: 50 percent say ending shuttle program is bad for country

Washington (CNN) - Half of all Americans say that the end of the space shuttle program is bad for the country, according to a new national survey released as the last shuttle mission came to a close.

And a CNN/ORC International Poll also indicates that most of the public wants to U.S. to develop a new spacecraft that will send astronauts into space, but a majority say they would prefer that private enterprise rather than a government program achieve that goal.

Full results (pdf).

The survey's release came just a few hours after the shuttle Atlantis glided back to Earth early Thursday - capping a 30-year program that saw hundreds of astronauts go into space. The landing at 5:57 a.m. ET went off without a hitch at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

Half of those questioned in the poll say the end of the space shuttle program will be bad for the country, with 16 percent saying it will be good, and one-third saying it will have no effect. Three-quarters say the U.S. should develop a replacement spacecraft that will be capable of sending astronauts back into space.

"Men are more likely than women to think that the U.S. should develop a new spacecraft," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Eight in ten men favor replacing the shuttle, compared to roughly two-thirds of women. But there is little partisan divide on this topic - more than seven out of ten Democrats, Independents and Republicans want to see the U.S. develop a new spacecraft."

Only 38 percent say that the country should rely on government to run manned space missions in the future; with 54 percent saying they would prefer that private companies handle spaceflight in the years to come.

The public is confident that this will eventually happen: Nearly nine in ten say the U.S. will achieve that goal.

But the major motivation that spurred the U.S. to develop a space program in the 1960s - competition with Russia and other countries - is no longer there. In 1961, 51 percent of the American public said that it was very important for the U.S. to be ahead of Russia and other countries in space exploration. Now only 38 percent feel that way.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on July 18-20, with 1,009 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.

Filed under: CNN poll • NASA • Polls
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    Under-funding NASA is what is bad for the country. The Shuttle needed replacing, it takes years to so so, and Congress wouldn't spend the money. Can't afford it; gotta have those tax cuts for the rich.

    The repug-passed House Defense bill, reported on 2 weeks back or so, ADDED $17 billion to defense. NASA gets a yearly total of about $18 billion.

    How you gonna like it when that space station orbiting overhead is China's?? Your kids can watch it go by, like I do the ISS, on a good viewing night, every few weeks.

    July 21, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. Sylvia Saint

    There is no mission for the space program. There is no specific objective that has any tangible goals that benefit life in America. We went to the moon to prevent the Soviets from beating us at militarizing space. The nation could get behind that. We did it in less than 10 years. Heck today, we can't even rebuild the World Trade Tower 10 years after 9-11 because of all the partisan jockeying and bickering.

    I wonder how many of this 50% that say the end of the Shuttle is bad are ALSO among those railing against the $14.3TRILLION National Debt? American's want to bitch about everything and blame someone else.

    America can't have everything [ A space boondoogle, unfunded tax cuts for the rich, TWO unfunded wars, more defense spending than the ROW combined, and a budget surplus]. Make your choice.

    July 21, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Phil in KC

    I wouldn't trust private enterprise to run that program. And, it just doesn't make sense. This is definitely a program the government should run. And any technological developments should be shared to the benefit of all citizens, not just those who can make a profit off of it.

    July 21, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Sank

    The Space Shuttlle and program along with the Military was one of Obama's goals coming in to disarm America. This is his desire. He even said as much when he cursed the American flag and said that it represented war and destruction and that America should be like the Islamic Countries stand for peace. BULLCRAP IF YOU BELIEVE HIM AND HIS LIES.

    July 21, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  5. BeverlyNC

    I agree. We need NASA, its brilliant scientists, the innovations they create and the resulting benefits to society we have received in medical, technology, and other fields from their research and constant exploration. We need thinkers, innovators, and those who look to the future, to things we have never thought we could do before. Who would have ever though man could walk on the moon? Who would thought men could live in space and perform experiements for mediical research not possible here on Earth? NASA is amazing, important, and critical to our future. NASA is worth every penny and more we can give them. We should fully fund them and support them. They represent the best of America. Education and science and research and exploration is an important element to the future success of America.

    July 21, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. Dave

    The Space Shuttle program is a great part of American (and world) history. We've learned so much and have had awesome people working in the program. It's a shame that so many good NASA people are now going to lose their jobs.
    Another great tragedy is that the taxpayers have gotten stuck bailing out Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac (over the last 2-3 years) at a cost of $317 billion for all the garbage that went on there and their major role in the housing bust. The entire (approx.) 35 year space shuttle program cost $209 billion–a vastly better use of taxpayer money.
    Thanks for your time.

    July 21, 2011 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  7. sue

    Well for now I think it is more important to put that money here in this country than out in least we could feed the starving right here in this country and give our kids a better education and solve our more pressing problems

    July 21, 2011 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  8. Peter s

    "Half of all Americans say that the end of the space shuttle program is bad for the country, according to a new national survey released as the last shuttle mission came to a close." MAY BE THEY THINK THERE IS NO COST INVOLVED!!

    July 21, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    I would think that our space program generates more jobs than oil subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare. It is my understanding that NASA is handout 30,000 pink slips tomorrow.

    So many things that we take for granted have come out of the space program.

    The space programs have given us stuff you may not realize: microwave ovens; microproccesors; fire retardant materials, like Nomex, heat resistant glass, like Pyres; impact resistant materials, like Kevlar; and too many other not so obvious things to list.

    Personally, I wish to see US manned space flight continue. There are some things that private industry just cannot do because their is not enough profit in it.

    Fantastic Fact: The space shuttle engines are so efficient (power output/weight of engine) that if you could scale one down to the power output of your average 4-cylinder engine, it would weigh only about 5 pounds!

    July 21, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  10. carrotroot

    I would rather see us save some money for a few years and devote more time to launching unmanned probes and space based telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope. Putting people into space is expensive and I think it's time for private industries to really step up to the plate.

    July 21, 2011 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. ConservaFASCISTS/Alan West = Masogonist

    Why has the government been hush hush an alien life which we all know is out there? You can't tell me they've been going up in space for the last 40 years and have not encountered UFO's.

    July 21, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Only 38 percent say that the country should rely on government to run manned space missions in the future; with 54 percent saying they would prefer that private companies handle spaceflight in the years to come.
    There is so much risk involved that few if any companies would be willing to take it on. The financial risks are huge, and the human risks are even larger.

    I am curious about where some of the unique technology and patents that NASA holds will wind up.

    July 21, 2011 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. Time for another change

    Ending the program without a viable alternative is a massive failure. Relying on other countries is NOT a viable alternative.

    July 21, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Dale

    The Shuttle is a failure technically, financially and scientifically. It killed it's occupants on 2% of it's flights, despite huge amounts of ground support. Statistically, it is far more dangerous than, say, Soyuz. The dangers of space travel didn't kill those people– they were killed by poor engineering and poor management. Both of the incidents were caused by well-understood failures when NASA chose to ignore the warnings. The shuttle cost far more than predicted, flew far less than predicted, and never came close to the practical, inexpensive, routine access to space that was promised. Furthermore, the $500M per flight price tag and focus on operations rather than research sucked the life out of all other NASA manned space flight efforts. The Shuttle is why Americans have not flown beyond low earth orbit for 30 years despite having the technology and NASA budget to do so. For what the Shuttle program has cost, we could have put a man on Mars. So let us celebrate what was accomplished by the Shuttle, but let us not forget the very expensive lessons learned.

    July 21, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  15. bobcat2u

    All this space exploration is cool and all, but the billions of dollars being used to shoot men into space can be used a whole lot better here on earth.

    July 21, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. B

    The Shuttle was a great system, but like all systems that are beyond their practical lifespan, have become too expensive to maintain. Better concepts will rise to the forefront and make Space exploration more practical and more affordable in the longterm.
    Getting private companies more involved will inspire better concepts to be developed. Winged recovery systems seem to make sense for safety but have to be designed to be less expensive to turn-around and also less complex.

    Of course we will not see much of anything developed to encourage Space considerations until we can get a functioning Congress again !

    July 21, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Billy

    Why would we invest in creating new technologies while exploring space when we could be giving billions away in tax breaks to billionaires?

    Won't someone (besides the GOP) has to think of the billionaires!

    July 21, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Democrat Class Warfare & Race Baiting - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    It is a NATIONAL DISGRACE to have the shuttle program end before its replacement is up and running. It is another indicator of the decline of this country. The fact that we are now dependent on RUSSIA for the transport of our people to the space station is a NATIONAL DISGRACE. This country and its people benefit 1,000 fold for every dollar it spends on the space program. Thank you President Obama for further damaging this country. Any president that would see thousands of our best engineers tossed out of jobs is also a NATIONAL DISGRACE.

    July 21, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    So many polls....
    We don't have the cash to spare for space travel. We need to address and redress the HUMANS that we have on our planet. We need to invest in education so that our children will be able to READ about past space explorations. We need to find alternative fuels and promote THAT. We need to close tax loopholes, and discontinue unneeded subsidies to billionaire companies and re-invest those savings into making us competitive again in the global market.
    We are not doing a good job of handling things down here on Earth, what's the rush to spread our ignorance to other planets?

    July 21, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. Four and The Door

    American national debt is rising at the rate of the annual budget of NASA every 3 days. This is how much spending is exceeding what is being collected. We have a serious spending problem. It's called Medicare and it needs to be fixed.

    July 21, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. MTATL67

    Do those same people who think that doing away with the shuttle program is a bad idea willing to pay for it or do they want the government to cut spending. Chose folks one because we can't have both.

    July 21, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. Sniffit

    "Why has the government been hush hush an alien life which we all know is out there? "

    I'm pretty sure the Teatrolls are the GOP's way of proving it.

    And Democrat Class Warfare, please grow up. You're here day in and day out yammering every rationalization under the sun for why Obama is horrible and why we need to cut all kinds of spending. I think I speak for most people here when I challenge you to explain to everyone why health care and social security for the elderly and poor here on Earth is less important than shooting people up into space to play Star Trek. Moreover, please include an explanation of why you seem to think all those top engineers and scientists won't find jobs in the private sector and why your magic "free market" won't rush to fill in the gap created by temporarily abandoning gov't funded space exploration.

    July 21, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. B

    Buy the Way people, Obama did not Kill the Shuttle program. It was decided before he took over to retire the program !

    Everyone is trying to unseat the one person that is actively trying to save this country from the Republicans that would destroy it all..


    July 21, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Brad

    It is plain and simple you can't be a number one nation without a space program. Now we are deferring to Russia to send people into space that is unbelievable! These people at NASA are more experienced then others in the private sector. We need to keep this skill set of people around for the next generation. It is sad to see our country in decline all thanks to the politicians that have been messing up things. More dismantling to come, just watch.

    July 21, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. GI Joe

    Hmmm – I guess that means 50% say it's NOT bad.

    July 21, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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