These priorities do seem a bit off.
While NASA's Mars ambitions keep getting more expensive, Americans are quietly deciding that their off-world priorities lie elsewhere.
A newly-released Pew Research survey shows that while a majority of Americans are supportive of NASA in general, they're way less into the agency's dogged pursuit of research into possible life on Mars and are way more interested in protecting our planet from killer asteroids. Which, to be real, probably makes a good deal of sense.
Polling more than 10,000 respondents, Pew found that a whopping 60 percent of Americans said their top priority for NASA was to "monitor asteroids [and] other objects that could hit the Earth," with roughly half of those 10,000 adding that "monitor[ing] key parts of the Earth's climate system" was among their top desired goals for the agency.
Compared to the 12 percent of respondents who said their top priority is sending astronauts to the Moon and the 11 percent who said they're most interested in seeing astronauts on Mars, the division between the taxpayers' wishlist and what NASA is actually doing is pretty severe.
While a majority of Americans are concerned about the possibility of asteroids hitting the planet, NASA is projecting that its budget for its Mars sample return mission has doubled from the already-high pricetag of $4.4 billion to a face-melting $8-9 billion.
Paired with the projected $93 billion cost of the Artemis lunar mission, NASA is planning to spend a cubic crapton on exploration of the Moon and Mars.
What's more, the agency's planetary defense budget geared towards protecting Earth from asteroid impacts, which was already minuscule comparatively, has actually fallen significantly in recent years from $166 million annually to $138 million, though as the American Institute of Physics notes in an explainer about the budget cuts, that could be in part to NASA's successful smashing of an asteroid with its Double Asteroid Redirection Test in late 2022.
Given how much more money NASA is requesting for Mars and Moon missions over its planetary defense budget, it's not surprising that many folks have different priorities.
More on asteroids: Hubble Spots Remains of Asteroid NASA Smashed With Battering Ram
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