Most Americans think NASA’s $10 billion space telescope is a good investment, poll finds

Shortly after NASA shared the first stunning images taken by the agency’s powerful new James Webb Space Telescope, a new online opinion poll asked Americans: the observatory of nearly 10 billion dollars a good investment? And the resounding answer: yes.

Today, marketing and data analytics firm YouGov released an online survey of 1,000 Americans, asking their general opinion of NASA and whether or not various space programs have been good investments. About 70% of those polled had a favorable opinion of NASA, and 60% thought the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, was worthwhile.

YouGov notes that this poll was taken between July 14 and 18, after NASA released the first dazzling JWST images of glittering galaxies and nebulae on July 12. These images seem to have been enough to eclipse some of JWST’s Past Drama. The telescope may be in space and working now, but it’s been a long and arduous journey to get there. Prior to its launch, the development of JWST was marked by significant delays and budget overruns. Originally, NASA and mission planners hoped to launch the telescope between 2007 and 2011 at a relatively low cost of $1 billion to $3.5 billion. But the telescope has gone through a dizzying series of delays and mishaps. By the time JWST finally launched on Christmas Day 2021, its total lifetime cost stood at $9.7 billion.

To be fair, the nearly $10 billion price tag for JWST is NASA’s lifetime cost, which includes most of its development since the early 2000s, as well as the first five years of its operations, according to the Planetary Society. And the Planetary Society also notes that JWST’s total costs represent 0.0095% of all US spending between 2003 and 2026.

Of course, most people interviewees probably weren’t thinking about price when examining the intricacies of the Carina Nebula that JWST captured in incredible detail. When shown the already iconic image, people became poetic. “Amazement at incredible beauty,” said one person who responded to the YouGov poll. “I was pretty overwhelmed by it,” wrote another. “It’s wonderful to be able to see so much detail in such a small part of the universe.”

And these first images are just a little teaser for what’s to come. Stunning photos and revelations will only keep coming the longer the telescope operates in space. And survey respondents said they were eager to learn more. “Some applauded NASA’s ongoing space exploration for its broader contribution to scientific knowledge and others said they looked forward to seeing what else the telescope would reveal,” YouGov wrote in its communicated.

YouGov also asked respondents about other space investments, including the Hubble Space Telescope currently orbiting Earth, the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle program. All received generally favorable reviews.

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