By Julia Webster
July 8, 2019

Most Americans don’t think returning to the moon should be a top priority for the country’s space program, a recent poll found, despite the Trump administration’s goal to do exactly that within five years.

Only 23% of Americans consider the return voyage a priority, according to an Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

The results come after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced in March a plan to return to the moon within five years. “In this century, we’re going back to the moon with new ambitions,” Pence said at the time, pointing to the possibility of valuable resources around the lunar south pole that could be converted into rocket fuel for longer missions.

But the poll, conducted in May ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing this month, showed that 37% of Americans said reaching Mars is a more important goal, while 43% do not think either action should be a priority.

Most Americans agreed the the space program’s top priorities should be monitoring potentially dangerous objects like asteroids and comets, as well as conducting scientific research to expand knowledge of the Earth, solar system and the universe more broadly. Establishing permanent human settlements on other planets or developing an American military presence in space are at the bottom of the list, with around 20% of Americans saying either are very important.

Most respondents also agreed that the federal government should be primarily responsible for extraterrestrial efforts, with academia, private companies and other countries playing a lesser role.

The poll was conducted with 1,137 adults via online and telephone interviews.

Write to Julia Webster at julia.webster@time.com.

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