50 Years After Moon Landing, Support for Space Program High

Americans have been less convinced of the justification of NASA’s costs in the past. A 1979 NBC News/Associated Press poll conducted at the moon landing’s 10-year anniversary found 53% of Americans saying the costs were not justified. Americans were split on the issue when Gallup asked this question at the 25-year anniversary in 1994.

But with each successive anniversary, views of the costs being justified have grown — to 55% at the 30-year anniversary in 1999, to 58% at the 40th anniversary in 2009 and to 64% today. The Apollo mission in 1969 cost the U.S. a substantial $177 billion (in 2019 dollars), kickstarting innovations and advancements that have changed the face of many U.S. technology sectors in the decades since.

Beliefs that the space program’s costs are justifiable have grown at the national level because of growing views of its benefits among older Americans.

In the past, older U.S. adults were less likely than younger adults to perceive the program’s costs as being justifiable — but in the latest survey, all age groups have similar views, with 62% to 65% saying the costs are justifiable.

Americans are more likely to say funding for NASA should be kept as it is (50%) or increased (27%) than to say such funding should be decreased (16%) or ended altogether (6%).

The combined 77% wanting NASA spending maintained or increased is on par with 76% in January 1986, right after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster; these points mark the highest in Gallup’s trend. Only in 1993, after the loss of the Mars Observer, did less than half of Americans say NASA spending should be maintained or increased.

Sixty-three percent of Americans rate NASA’s performance as “excellent” or “good” — slightly higher than the 40% to 60% ratings for the agency since 1999.

NASA received its highest rating of 76% in 1998, just after astronaut John Glenn returned to space as the oldest man to do so. The low points for views of the program were 43% in 1993, after NASA lost contact with the nearly $1 billion Mars Observer, and 42% in 2013.