Earlier this month, the fine people over at Phillips & Company asked a diverse sample pool of more than one thousand Americans whether a human being will walk on Mars within the next two decades. Seventy-one percent responded with confidence that we will put a footprint on the Red Planet by 2033, which is likely a whole lot more optimism than a similar survey given to just scientists would have come back with.

One reason for this aggressive optimism is likely due to most Americans’ misunderstanding of how much money NASA is given to work with each year. When asked what percent of the US budget went to space exploration each year, the average response was 2.4%, but in actuality, the figure is about .5%. During the height of the space program in the 1960s, the number was actually slightly higher than 2.4%, a clear indication of where the government’s priorities fell.

According to Explore Mars, there are three primary reasons Americans want to make it to Mars. 1) They want to study the planet. 2) They want to search for life. 3) They want to maintain an edge over nations such as China when it comes to space exploration.

It all comes down to a matter of priorities. Not every program can be funded as much as advocates would like, but if these results are an accurate reflection of what Americans really want for the future, it may be worth cutting in other areas to make putting humans on the Red Planet a further priority.

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