Press Release

50,000 People Jam Planetary Society Website to Take Space Survey about NASA Priorities

By SpaceRef Editor
February 4, 2002
Filed under ,

"The public responded loud and strong when we asked them
what they want to see next in planetary exploration," said Louis
Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "Even
more important than what they said is how many said it — over 50,000
responses in just two short weeks. This type of public interest
should weigh heavily in Congress’ consideration of the President’s
proposed NASA budget which is being made public today."

The huge public response was perhaps one of the most important
results from the Decadal Survey questionnaire about setting
priorities for U.S. planetary research programs. At NASA’s request,
the National Research Council (NRC) is conducting a planetary science
community assessment of what these priorities should be for the next
10 years. The NRC appointed steering committee asked The Planetary
Society, the world’s largest space-interest group, to poll the public
for their views about planetary exploration..

The results of that public poll are especially interesting to The
Planetary Society since the new NASA budget — the first developed by
the Bush Administration, with major direction from its new NASA
Administrator, Sean O’Keefe — is being released today.

In the two weeks that the questionnaire was posted on the Society’s
website, over 50,000 people weighed in with their opinions. For many
of the questions, those opinions vary widely, but a few definite
favorites did emerge.

"More than 90% of survey respondents ranked exploration of Mars
among the top five mission priorities for NASA, thus outpacing all
other Solar System mission categories" said Bruce Betts,
Director of Projects at The Planetary Society.

The rest of the top five favorite exploration destinations and the
percentage of respondents who ranked them in the top five were: our
own moon (65%), Jupiter’s moon Europa (62%), Pluto and the Kuiper
Belt (37%), and Io (34%).

Opinions were fairly evenly divided, however, on prioritizing the
ultimate purpose of US planetary exploration, and choosing whether it
is preferable to mount missions to new bodies not previously visited
by spacecraft or to send missions to explore previously visited
objects in greater detail.

The final two questions of the survey asked how the public in
general, and educators in particular, preferred to learn about the
results of exploration missions. Not surprisingly for a web survey,
respondents were eager to receive the latest information via the
Internet, as well as through more traditional media, such as
newspapers and television.

To see the complete survey results, visit the Planetary Society’s
website at http://planetary.org.

-o0o-
THE PLANETARY SOCIETY:
Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary
Society in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to
continue the search for extraterrestrial life. With members in over
140 countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the
world.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
For more information about The Planetary Society, contact Susan
Lendroth at (626) 793-5100 ext 237 or by e-mail at
susan.lendroth@planetary.org.

The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91106-2301
Tel:  (626) 793-5100
Fax:  (626) 793-5528
E-Mail:  tps@planetary.org

SpaceRef staff editor.