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Less than a third of people in Ireland would take a trip to space - even if it was free

The Ireland Thinks/Good Information Project poll turned up some interesting answers.

FIFTY YEARS SINCE the end of the US-Soviet Space Race, we are unquestionably at the beginning of a new, if rather crowded, era in space exploration.

Thanks to a handful of high-profile billionaires, interest in space exploration arguably hasn’t been this high since the Golden Age of the 1960s.

Commercial companies like those funded by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are playing an increasing role in the sector – launching rockets and satellites and transporting cargo and crew.

In the latest Ireland Thinks/The Good Information Project poll, we explored what the public thought of it: Who is winning the space race? Will space travel become commonplace in the future? And would you undertake such a trip?

A nationally representative sample of 1,427 people were surveyed for our poll – with the questions asked over the 28 and 29 of August. 

We asked:

“If you were to pick one, who do you believe to be the leading player in the current space race?”

This question isn’t to the forefront of minds like it may have been in the 60s and the answers have definitely changed.

While the Americans remain ahead with NASA the answer for 27%, the rest of the rostrum has shifted.  

The biggest challenge to the US comes not from Russia (2%), which under the Soviet Union pioneered space exploration with the launch of the Sputnik satellite and the first person, Yuri Gagarin, in space.

Instead, China is regarded as NASA’s biggest rival but back at 9%.

Reflecting this ranking, there are five operational vehicles on Mars:

  • NASA’s Curiosity rover (2012), Insight lander (2018), Perseverance rover (2021), and Ingenuity helicopter (2021).
  • And, as of May this year – a Chinese vehicle: the CNSA’s Zhurong rover (2021).

Another rover named Rosalind Franklin is belatedly due to join the pack in 2023 as part of a joint mission from the European Space Agency (cited by 2% as the leader in the space race) and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.

The enterprise founded by Elon Musk – SpaceX – is second in our poll, with 23%.

Next is Richard Branson’s space firm Virgin Galactic9% of respondents believe he is leading the space race. 

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon-backed enterprise, Blue Origin, lags behind at 4%.

Branson and Bezos, of course, made headlines earlier this summer – with the two space tourism pioneers safely flying to the edge of space and back

As part of our poll, we also asked the public whether they would consider a similar trip.

Just 4% of the public said the option that they would ‘pay anything to go’ best reflected their position. 

Only 24% would go if it were free to do so.

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The number willing to go – for free or otherwise – rises to 41% among men. The corresponding figure is 42% among those aged under 35 of either gender. 50% of men aged under 35 said they would be willing to go. 

While that all sounds rather exciting for those interested, we also asked the public whether they believed that such a prospect would become commonplace within 50 years.

35% believed that it would. 46% disagreed. 

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

About the author:

Kevin Cunningham  / Ireland Thinks

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