CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – Americans prefer a space program focused on potential asteroid influences, scientific research, and the use of robots to explore the cosmos instead of sending people back to the Moon or Mars, a survey shows.  The poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, published Thursday, a month before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, lists surveillance of asteroids and comets as that of the US desired destination No. 1 on. About two-thirds of Americans consider this very or extremely important, and about 9 out of 10 say that it is at least moderately important.
The poll comes when the White House is trying to bring astronauts back to the moon, but only about a quarter of Americans said that exploration of the moon or of Mars by astronauts should be among the highest priorities of the space program. About another third described everyone as moderately important.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to enter another celestial body on July 20, 1969. A total of 12 NASA astronauts stepped on the moon.
Jan Dizard, 78, a retired professor of environmental studies in Chico, California, acknowledges that there is more to learn on the moon and that it would be "wonderful" to send astronauts to Mars. But now is not the time, he stressed.
"There are all sorts of other things, not least climate change, that deserve our attention," said Dizard the AP. "The other stuff can wait."
After observing asteroids and comets, scientific research to expand knowledge of the Earth and the rest of the solar system and the universe came next to the list of American priorities in space – about 6 out of 10 said this was very or very important. Almost half said the same thing about sending robotic probes instead of astronauts to space exploration, and about 4 out of 10 said the same about further funding for the International Space Station.
The search for life on other planets reached fifth place with 34%, rating it at least as very important, followed by 27% for human Mars expeditions and 23% for moon shots with crew.
In a dead heat for last place out of the nine listed goals: Building permanent human residences on other planets with 21% rated it as very important and built up 19% of US military presence in space. While other targets were considered by the majority of Americans to be at least moderately important, about half described a military presence and space colonies as unimportant.
Toni Dewey, 71, retired office worker in Wilmington, North Carolina, said space exploration should further improve life. Earth and explorers should be machines against humans.
"It would cost a lot of money to send someone to Mars," she said, "and we have roads and bridges to repair here." Moon, Dewey noted, "We were there."
But Alan Curtis, 47, of Pocatello, Idaho, considers lunar and Mars trips a top priority, especially if the US is to remain a global leader. Compared to the achievements of the 1960s and 1970s, the US space program is now a second thought, he said.
"It's pretty bad we need to rent a place on a Russian spaceship to get to the space station," he told Curtis, a cashier who says he's an occasional bounty hunter. He pointed to the first landing of a spaceship on the other side of the moon through China in January.
Abdul Lotiff, 28, manager of a retail security company in Mason City, Iowa, also advocates a return to the moon. He sees economic benefits there, as the resulting new technologies enter areas outside the space business. In addition, he said that when the earth gets crowded, the moon could serve as a springboard for humanity's expansion into outer space.
The poll asked Americans to choose between the Moon and Mars to be explored by US astronauts. The red planet was the winner with about twice: 37% versus 18%. However, 43% stated that neither of them has priority.
For Americans under 45, born after NASA's Apollo moon shots, Mars prevailed even more prominently: 50% prefer a Mars voyage, compared to 17% for the Moon. One-third said that both should not be a priority.
For over 45s, 52% stated that neither Mars nor the Moon should have priority as a human target. Of this age group, 26% preferred sending astronauts to Mars and 19% to the Moon.
As for the White House deadline for the return of astronauts to the Moon within five years, NASA is targeting the water-rich Moon South Pole by 2024. About 4 out of 10 Americans supported the plan, compared to 2 out of 10. The rest was also not the opinion.
The good news, at least for NASA and its contractors, is that 60% of Americans believe the benefits of the space program justified the costs.
In 1979 – on the 10th anniversary of the first manned moon landing – according to a survey by AP-NBC News, 41% of Americans said the benefits were worth the cost.
If about half of Americans have the opportunity to experience space travel themselves, that would be the case. Circle the Earth, while about 4 out of 10 fly to the Moon and about 3 out of 10 fly to Mars. Among those willing to travel to the Red Planet, about half – or 15% of all Americans – said they would move to a Mars colony, even though this means they would never return to Earth ,
Men wanted this more than women travel to any space goal: Earth orbit, Moon and Mars.
Curtis claims that the US now has a colony on the moon, "if we had invested our money in the right places."
"We have not. I've been there for so long," he said. "Is the flag still there?" During the Apollo landings until 1972, flags were planted on the moon. The first was overturned by engine exhausts when Armstrong and Aldrin were blown up by Apollo 11 from the moon.