Acton Institute Powerblog

Shuttle Support Wanes

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CBS News reports that “while a majority still thinks the Space Shuttle is worth continuing, the program receives its lowest level of support in this poll since CBS News started asking about it in 1986. In addition, the public gives the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) its lowest job rating to date.”

This is an interesting bit of news, but the general unreliability of polls is exacerbated in this case, since “this poll was conducted before the repair of Discovery took place.” The huge amount of live TV news coverage the repair recieved would certainly boost public opinion of the shuttles in particular and NASA in general.

It may, however, help to show a general trend downward in support for the governmental program, down to 59% from a high of 80% support in 1986. As in all political matters, funding decisions should be made with a coherent prioritization in view of monetary scarcity. Nevertheless, special interests and political economy serve to make what ought to be and what is two quite different things.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • I’m not certain that the huge amount of coverage devoted to the repair would necessarily translate into broader support for the shuttle program. It’s been having the opposite effect with me.

    As I see it, it’s wonderful that we’ve returned to manned spaceflight. But what seems to be happening is that the shuttle program has turned into a process whereby we spend a couple billion (or whatever they spend to send that thing up) to get the shuttle into orbit, spend a week inspecting the orbiter to see if the launch process caused any damage, and then hope and pray that it doesn’t burn up on reentry. It’s sort of like [i]Apollo 13[/i], except that instead of going to the moon, they’re delivering groceries and taking out the trash from the space station.

    Call me a cynic if you will, but if this is the way that shuttle flights are going to be from now on, I say we just ditch the shuttle and move on to the next thing.

  • Cynic! (You asked for it.)

  • You are cheeky, aren’t you?

  • The shuttle was always an ugly kludge. The budget-driven compromises in the design phase ensured from the get-go that it would never be capable of doing anything interesting, or seriously advancing our exploration of space. And the subsequent prioritization of the shuttle program has guaranteed that NASA spends decades and billions of dollars on the scientific equivalent of treading water.

    Some people think it’s impossible to be pro-space without being pro-NASA and pro-Shuttle. Anyone sufficiently familiar with both will recognize that NASA and the Shuttle program have actually held us back…and, if we really care about space exploration, ought to be gutted straightaway, so that we can start over and do it RIGHT.