Most Brits still say human space exploration is important – but are unpersuaded by a manned trip to Mars
India’s space agency successfully launched a spacecraft to Mars on Tuesday, attempting to become the fourth in the world to orbit the Red Planet after the agencies of the US, Russia and Europe. And with Russia sending the Olympic torch to the international space station yesterday, and sci-fi blockbuster Gravity being released today, YouGov tests how alive dreams of space are in modern Britain.
Despite the heyday of space exploration being long passed, the majority of British adults (54%) still say it is important for human beings to explore space. A significant minority (43%) say it is not important.
Men are more likely to think space exploration is important, with 61% saying so compared to 47% of women, and three times as many men (28% to 9%) saying it is very important.
One detail that will give hope to the space exploration movement is that younger generations tend to see space exploration as more, not less, worthwhile. 63% of 18-39 year olds hold that view compared to 48% of those over 40.
But while the head of NASA claims the US hope to send a human to Mars by 2030 - saying their “entire exploration program is aligned to support this goal” – the British public are less enthusiastic.
63% say it is not important for a human being to set foot on Mars, while 33% say it is.
Brits have faith in America’s ambition, though. 29% say the US’s space agency will be the first to send a human being to Mars, 18% think it will China’s and 8% believe it will be Russia’s.
While there are a growing number of private companies and organisations attempting to send a manned spacecraft to Mars, only 5% believe one will do so first.
A mere 1% believe the British space agency will get a human to Mars first, however 44% do believe it is a good idea for the UK to have a space agency. 34% think it is a bad idea.
Britain’s attempts at Mars exploration have been somewhat frustrated. The UK scientist behind 2003’s failed Mars mission - ‘Beagle 2’ - said the comparative success of NASA left him “about as disappointed as an Olympic athlete who gets to London 2012 after years of training only to pull up with a hamstring injury at the first hurdle.” Beagle 2 was supposed to transmit a song recorded by Blur back to Earth on landing, however mission control heard only “poignant silence”, on Christmas day 2003.