WASHINGTON President George W. Bush's plan to build a space station on the moon and eventually send astronauts to Mars hasn't grabbed the
public's imagination, an Associated Press poll suggests.
More than half in the poll said it would be better to spend the money on domestic programs rather than on space research.
Asked whether they favoured the United States expanding the space program the way Bush proposes, people were evenly split, with 48 per cent favouring
the idea and the same number opposing it, according to the poll conducted for The AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
Former president John F. Kennedy's plans to put an astronaut on the moon during the 1960s met with a similar mixed response. A Harris poll taken in
1967 found that people were about evenly divided on whether to send an astronaut to the moon. The U.S. space program finally landed astronauts on the
moon's surface in 1969.
Most respondents said they generally support continuing to send humans into space.
However, given the choice of spending money on programs like education and health care or on space research, 55 per cent said they wanted domestic
programs. Based on previous estimates for a moon-Mars initiative, the space cost would run in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
"You can't have a war, cut taxes, have the economy in a garbage pail and spend billions going into space," said Dallas Hodgins, a 76-year-old
retired University of Michigan researcher from Flint, Mich. "How are they going to pay for all this? I don't see how it's morally justifiable. In
Flint, there isn't a school roof that doesn't leak."
On Wednesday, Bush is scheduled to spell out details of his proposal to use an outpost on the moon as a jumping off point for more remote destinations
such as Mars or asteroids.
Those most likely to favour the plan to expand space exploration were men, young adults, people with more education and those with higher incomes.
It made a difference who was said to be behind the plan. When half the poll sample was asked about a "Bush administration" plan to expand space
exploration instead of the "United States" plan, opposition increased.
Just over half of Democrats' opposed the plan by "the United States." Once it was identified as a "Bush administration" plan, Democrats opposed
it by a two-to-one margin.
Some have suggested that space exploration could be expanded more inexpensively using robots instead of human astronauts to explore the moon or other
planets. The AP-Ipsos poll indicated that option was popular, with 57 per cent favouring exploring the moon and Mars with robots and 38 per cent
Despite the mixed response about the moon-Mars proposal, general support for space exploration remains strong.
Even after people were reminded of a shuttle accident that killed seven astronauts last February, three-fourths said the United States should continue
to send humans into space.
Administration officials say the president will call for the retirement of the space shuttles by the end of this decade to make way for the next
generation of spacecraft.
For many people, the proposal to go back to the moon and beyond arouses the same sense of exploration and adventure the space program captured in its
"I think it's a great idea," said Paula Steiner, 52 of Jacksonville, Fla. "It's human nature. There's always been an instinct in human beings to
explore to see what's going on elsewhere."
I think bush is just a weirdo trying to get some alien's to kill us? eh? eh?