July 26, 2005
A recent poll shows that a growing number of Americans don't think that returning to space is such a good idea.
The United States space program has been around for about 34 years, and obviously at this point, its not a matter of whether we can send anyone up in space. It seems to be a question of whether we should.
The Discovery Shuttle blasted off Tuesday morning, two and a half years since the Columbia disaster halted the program. However, a number of Americans believe it should not have even continued.
"If you look at the dollars they're spending. Look at all the issues we've got in this country, look at the deficits we've incurred through the war, and we're playing games sending people up in space," said a critic of the space program, Larry Rudner.
A recent CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll shows that 1 in 4 people believe the program should not go on. Nearly 75% say it should. It's estimated that it cost $1.4 billion to get Discovery up in the air. Others however say regardless of the price tag, that it's worth it.
"I realize that it costs a lot of money, but it is space and it's one of the undiscovered frontiers and there's a lot of things that we can learn from it," said program supporter, Heather Bateman.
Professor Charles Tolbert from the University of Virginia Astronomy Department understands how the public may feel.
"I think most people are concerned about the expenses involved in the manned space program versus the return that you get for the science," said Tolbert.
While some say there are other things that money can be spent on, whether it will go towards a better program is another question.
"Even if it weren't being spent on the space program, would they spend it on something more useful? I doubt it," explained Tolbert.
Dr. Kathryn Thornton knows the usefulness firsthand, as a former NASA astronaut
"I think that we're going to continue to send people up in space," said Thornton. "It won't stop and I think we need to be a part of that."
With Discovery launched, it seems once again, we are. NASA has a lot riding on this mission. If something goes wrong it could jeopardize the future of the space program.