June 8, 2018
It’s summertime and many of us want to “get away from it all”—but not so far away that we see Earth in our rear-view mirrors. While a host of companies are trying to make space tourism a consumer trend—among them, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musks’s SpaceX—most U.S. adults say they would not want to go up to (and past) the wild blue yonder, based on findings of a poll conducted by Pew Research Center and released on June 7.
About four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they would definitely or probably be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft in the future, while roughly six-in-ten (58%) say they would not give it a go.
Interest in space travel is highest among those who are young at heart and men. A majority (63%) of Millennials are on-board with the idea; however only minorities of Gen Xers (39%) and Baby Boomer (27%) would be interested. About half of men (51%) say they would be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft, compared with one-third of women (33%).
Among the 42% of Americans who said they would be interested in traveling into space, the most common reason given (by 45% of respondents) was to “experience something unique.” Smaller shares of this group said they would want to be able to view the Earth from space (29%) or “learn more about the world” (20%).
Among the 58% who said they would not want to orbit the Earth aboard a spacecraft, equal shares said the main reason was that such a trip would be either “too expensive” (28%) or “too scary” (28%) or that their age or health wouldn’t allow it (28%).
Men were more likely than women to say the main reason they would not be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft was that it would be too expensive (37% vs. 22%), but women were more inclined than men to say they would not want to go because it would be too scary (34% vs. 18%).
The respondents also talked about their expectations for space tourism in the next 50 years. The public is split over whether this will happen, with half saying that people will routinely travel in space as tourists by 2068 and half saying this will not happen. Americans are more skeptical about the possibility of colonies on other planets – an endeavor championed by space entrepreneurs Elon Muskand Jeff Bezos. About one-third of Americans (32%) say people will build colonies on other planets that can be lived in for long periods by 2068.
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