Americans want private companies to seize opportunities in space—but they want that to translate into better life on Earth. That’s the upshot of a new Space Entrepreneur 2017 Survey from Brodeur Partners’ Space Group.
According to the research:
- Americans still see national security as the top space activity
- At the same time, they support private sector activity in space
- However, they want some degree of government regulation, especially privacy protection
- They expect space development to directly benefit Earth
- They think the U.S. is a leader, if not the leader, in space technology
“Americans still view space technology through the old lens of defense and national security,” said Jerry Johnson, a partner at global PR firm Brodeur Partners and author of the study, in a news release. “But we also found that there is support for commercial activity in space, even government funding for that activity, if those businesses are reasonably regulated and can demonstrate benefits on Earth.”
Private sector role
While historically space has been a government activity, Americans today actually prefer private over government investment in space-based activities. According to the survey, a majority of Americans actually support government financial incentives for those private space companies.
At the same time, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans believe that government investments should be in those space programs that have an immediate benefit to life on Earth.
The survey also found that space tourism needs to make the case that it will benefit the majority of the population: three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans agree that space travel will only benefit a few wealthy people.
Support is also tepid for government investment in deep space exploration: less than a majority (46 percent) of Americans support spending government money to send a mission to Mars.
Privacy is paramount
Everyone expects the skies to soon be filled with small satellites capturing increasingly detailed data about activities on Earth. Americans are wary of the privacy implications—strong majorities believe there should be privacy limitations on satellite companies capturing this data (72 percent), and government should have a regulatory role regarding private companies engaged in space enterprises (61 percent).
Space-based systems operators promise to improve life on Earth in a variety of ways, including communications, climate, navigation and crop monitoring. None is more important to our respondents than defense, the clear priority among seven services mentioned. At the same time, the survey suggests that people may not realize the important role that space commerce plays in everyday activity like GPS and navigation systems.
A solid majority of Americans believe the U.S. is a leader in space technology, with over one third of Americans saying we are “the clear global leader.” Fewer consider us the clear leader in medical technology, energy, automotive and environmental technology.
“This new data reveals a tricky communications challenge for the Entrepreneurial Space industry,” said John Brodeur, chairman of Brodeur Partners, who is leading the Brodeur Space Group, in the release. “Although enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in space is high, companies will need to clearly articulate their concern for privacy, their worthiness of financial incentives, and their relevance to life on Earth.”
The Brodeur Space Entrepreneur 2017 Survey was conducted using Toluna‘s online panel in the U.S. (n=615) from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11, 2017. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Toluna surveys. Figures for age, sex, region, and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the census population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in Toluna surveys, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Image source: PRNewsfoto/Brodeur Partners