On the eve of the final mission of the U.S. space shuttle program, most Americans say the United States must be at the forefront of future space exploration. Fifty years after the first American manned space flight, nearly six-in-ten (58%) say it is essential that the United States continue to be a world leader in space exploration; about four-in-ten say this is not essential (38%).
Looking back on the shuttle program, a majority (55%) say it has been a good investment for the country. However, this is lower than it was in the 1980s; throughout the early years of the shuttle program, six-in-ten or more said the program was a good investment.
Majorities in nearly all demographic groups say it is essential that the U.S. continue to be at the vanguard of space exploration. And partisan groups largely agree that American leadership is vital, although this view is more prevalent among Republicans. Two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say the nation must continue to play an international leadership role in space exploration; smaller majorities of Democrats (54%) and independents (57%) say this.
Read the full report, Majority Sees U.S. Leadership in Space as Essential, on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.