07/15/2009 - Four decades after the first American astronauts walked on the moon, that historic accomplishment has lost some prominence in the eyes of the public.
Ten years ago, when asked to name America's greatest achievement of the 20th century, the specific accomplishment cited most frequently—at 18%—was space exploration or the moon mission. Overall, 47% cited any achievement in science, medicine or technology, including space.
But in May of this year, when the public was asked to name the greatest U.S. accomplishment of the past 50 years, somewhat fewer (12%) specifically mentioned space exploration or getting a man to the moon as the greatest achievement. Only about a quarter (27%) mentioned an achievement in science, medicine or technology. (For more from this survey, see "Public Praises Scientists; Scientists Fault Public, Media," July 9, 2009.)
In the new survey, nearly as many people point to the election of a black president (10%) as cite the space program as the greatest U.S. accomplishment of the past half-century. In addition, a third (33%) offer no response—or say "nothing" when asked about the top national achievement—compared with 24% in the 1999 survey.
Read the full commentary “One Small Step” No Longer Seen as Such a Giant Leap for America on the Pew Research Center's Web site.