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Americans want space exploration to go on

By Shakti Bhatt
February 04, 2003 10:22 IST
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The shuttle crash last week -- the second in 17 years -- has renewed the debate over whether missions to space should continue.

If polls are anything to go by, an overwhelming number of Americans do not wish to abandon space exploration.

A special CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted on Sunday indicates that the Columbia disaster has done little to dampen the spirit of adventure of Americans. Also, majority of the people agree with the preliminary assessments of government experts that terrorists were not behind the Columbia crash.

Most people surveyed want the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's funding to either remain the same or be increased.

"To me, it would be silly if our mission to the space is abolished," says Dr Kalpalatha Guntupalli, who practises in Houston, Texas. "If after the Titanic, all sea travel was abandoned, we would be nowhere now. We will never progress."

Around 82 per cent of the people interviewed agree with Dr Guntupalli.

According to the study, the reaction to the recent loss is similar to the one after the 1986 crash of the Challenger shuttle.

"Americans wanted the space shuttle programme to continue then, and they persist in wanting it to continue now," the study says.

Seventy-three per cent of those interviewed say that the space programme should continue to include manned missions in addition to unmanned missions. In fact, this figure has increased from the 67 per cent in 1986.

The study also demonstrates that NASA's image has suffered little as a consequence of the tragedy.

The surprising part, however, is that when the sampling of 462 adults was asked if they expected such a tragedy, around 71 per cent answered in the positive.

"It is understandable," says Dr Guntupalli. "Everybody knows space missions are no small thing. That is precisely what makes those seven astronauts so courageous and so special."

The Columbia Crash: The Complete Coverage

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Shakti Bhatt