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Americans to NASA: Focus on Asteroids, Not the Moon

An Alaska Airlines flight passes by the rising moon, Feb. 21, 2016, in Phoenix.
An Alaska Airlines flight passes by the rising moon, Feb. 21, 2016, in Phoenix.

Americans would rather have NASA closely monitor asteroids and comets that could crash into Earth than send an astronaut to the moon or Mars.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, released Thursday, found two-thirds of respondents said monitoring asteroids, comets and “other events in space that could impact Earth” was “very or extremely important.”

Americans also want NASA to do more research to further our understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe. But once again the respondents said they want NASA to conduct the research using robots, not human astronauts.

Toni Dewey, a 71-year-old retired clerical worker in Wilmington, N.C., told AP in an interview that machines, rather than humans, should be explorers.

“It would cost a lot of money to send somebody to Mars,” she said, “and we have roads and bridges that need repaired here.”

Dewey is also not too eager to return to the moon, saying: “We’ve been there.”

In fact, only 23% of those surveyed thought we should return to the moon and only 27% favored a manned mission to Mars.

The poll comes as the White House renews its push for manned space landings.

During a rally to launch his re-election campaign this week, U.S. President Donald Trump promised that if he wins a second term, the country will “lay the foundation” for landing astronauts on Mars.

Even though he has given NASA a five-year deadline to return an astronaut to the moon, Trump recently changed his focus.

But either moon, or Mars, the good news for NASA is that 60% of Americans believe the benefits of space exploration have justified the cost.

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