The Economic Effectiveness of Astronomical Outreach

Carlos Pereira[1] & William C. Saslaw[2]

Department of Astronomy of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 22904



            Despite the considerable efforts some astronomers dedicate to public outreach programs, astronomy budgets are significantly declining. This may reflect a public that does not value astronomical research as much astronomers may desire. This article examines what makes astronomical research relevant to society and how we can improve the efficiency of our public outreach by emphasizing “spinoffs.” Results from our 100-person survey of students in the University Of Virginia show a strong connection between knowledge of spinoffs and support for increased budgets.


Keywords: College non-majors, Public outreach, General, Course curriculum, Assessment Astronomical Spinoffs.




            As any science matures and its “easy problems” are essentially solved, further progress often slows and becomes more expensive. The number of practitioners also grows and much of their research shifts from fundamental questions to more incremental ones. Like many of our colleagues, we believe this transition has been apparent in astronomy for the last decade, and possibly longer.

In an effort to encourage increased support for astronomy under these circumstances and especially within present difficult economic and political conditions whose priorities are constantly shifting, astronomers have devoted increasing time, energy, and money to “public outreach”. This takes many forms including elementary astronomy courses and clubs in nearly all levels of educational institutions from kindergarten to universities. Also, popular books, magazines, radio shows, television programs, movies and websites publicize astronomy’s goals and achievements. Most of these are done very well and maintain a loyal public response. Astronomy remains one of the most appealing sciences.

            And yet, despite these successes, astronomical budgets throughout the world are generally shrinking, both in real terms and as fractions of overall science expenditures (for examples see the 2012 NSF Portfolio Review, by Eisenstein et al.). The many reasons for this are clearly complex and multifold, as mentioned above. Here we are particularly interested in one of them: the role of public outreach. To gain some insight into the effectiveness of outreach we designed a questionnaire to survey 100 college students, mostly from the University of Virginia, in an attempt to see how much they knew about astronomy and how influential certain types of knowledge were in their desire to increase astronomy-dedicated funding.

            The survey consisted of 10 questions, described in Appendix 1. Through social media, we contacted a college-age group having a range of majors, degrees and levels of interest within astronomy. We then asked them what they thought was astronomy’s most important accomplishment. This helps determine what the initial knowledge and values of our participants were. Following those questions, participants were asked how they mainly learned about astronomy, so we could judge the most efficient forms of outreach to them. Participants were asked if they thought astronomy provided more than curious facts. Then, 25% of survey takers chose to elaborate on their answers, which increases our understanding of the participant’s initial beliefs. In the following questions we asked about effects of taxes and budgets. Initially, we asked participants into which areas they would put extra funding if there were to be an inevitable small tax raise. Then, we asked them if they would support increasing taxes specifically for science budgets. The final two questions tried to introduce a bias, which we hoped would influence participants to increase funding for astronomy. We did this first by mentioning astronomy’s budget decline and its small fractional relevance to the total US budget. Then we asked participants to consider NASA spinoffs that are used in developing communities – in one part we thereby estimated sympathy to budget problems and in the other we estimated the impact of knowledge of spinoffs as a reason to support increased funding. The idea of this survey was to analyze how knowledge of astronomy affected people’s response to astronomical public outreach programs. Our results suggest that an individual’s sympathy to budget declines is especially influenced by their knowledge of technological spinoffs from astronomy. Consequently, our results suggest that public outreach can be improved as people become aware of how astronomy is woven into the material well-being of their daily lives.


Part I – Methodology and General Results


            Our questionnaire was posted on “SurveyMonkey.”[3] With only 10 questions and 100 responders this could not be comprehensive but we can draw some interesting preliminary conclusions. Since these questions do not appear to have been examined previously, our results may encourage more detailed analyses. Despite its age-homogeneity, this group is of interest because it is very involved in contemporary public outreach. These are the people who have been exposed to the internet-era information boom and the increase of television shows on the subject – even though they are detached from the reality of paying taxes.

            We first analyze general characteristics of the respondents such as their overall enthusiasm for astronomy and their university major subject. Then we report results of the open questions presented in the survey, searching for patterns within the answers. We compare interviewee’s degrees of interest and knowledge in astronomy with their answers.

            As we can see from Table 1, scientists are less than one-third of the sample, but no subject dominates. In terms of general astronomical levels of interest, shown in table 2, we find that 57% of the participants are between levels 5 and 7 of enthusiasm – with 1 being completely apathetic and 10 being very enthusiastic.







Table 1. Percentage of Undergraduate majors or undeclared majors among respondents.

Commerce and Business










Religious Studies




Cognitive Science




Speech Pathology






Computer Science




Public Policy






Global Development




Environmental Studies



















Table 2 – Level of interest in astronomy from 1 (least) to 10 (most) among respondents.


































            The group rating their interest at 7 or greater out of 10 suggests that about 1/3 of the respondents have reacted favorably to public outreach, and might be expected to be fairly favorable towards astronomical funding and research. As we will see, however, they are more resistant than naively thought. Also, of this group, 53.5% say that their astronomical knowledge comes from the Internet, 27.3% from television, 26.3% from K-12 education and 29.3% considered college courses to be their main link to astronomy.

            Also, it is worth noting that there was no specific response pattern dictated by choice of major. There was no major category in which we found all participants answering in similar fashion. In all different majors we found individuals with different preferences.

            Next we discuss responses to budget questions as an indication of support for astronomy. Using data from the U.S. federal budget website and the NSF 2012 portfolio, increasing the NSF budget by $100 million would increase the total 3.8 trillion U.S. budget by 0.0026%. Approximately half the budget originates from taxation, so to raise $100 million for the NSF would require a tax increase of about 0.005%.         

            With these estimates we asked: If there were to be an inevitable 0.005% raise in US taxes prompted by a desire to increase the national budget devoted to sciences by $100 million, where would you want to see most of that money invested?[4] Participants were then given 5 options: medical research, development of green technologies, energy self-sufficiency, education and astronomical research and the space program. Only 2% of the votes went to astronomy. Green technologies with 16% were in second place and energy self-sufficiency, with 31% of the votes, was the most popular. Since one purpose of the survey was to understand what kind of knowledge is more likely to generate support for astronomical funding, then it follows that we should try different questions to see which one generates most sympathy.

            The test of sympathy for astronomy involves 3 questions. The first asks respondents whether they would support increasing taxes for extra funding directed at their favored science - to which 76% of respondents were either somewhat favorable or very favorable. The second question presents data on the budget shortfall[5] being experienced by National Observatories (from the NSF comprehensive portfolio review, 2012). To understand the answers we must bear 2 things in mind: only 2% of respondents agreed to increase astronomical funding at first, and 76% were willing to pay slightly higher taxes to benefit their favored area in science. The question was: Please consider these facts: A) The National Astronomical observatories is experiencing a severe budget crunch, having its size for the year 2012 27% smaller than its value in the year 2009. B) The current budget for this year is 26% smaller than the predicted values with a $45.4 Million shortfall. C) Increasing taxes by 0.005% and dedicating that value entirely to the division of astronomical sciences would generate approximately 100M dollars in funds, more than twice the value of the budget shortfall. How likely would you be to support either a tax increase or a tax redistribution that would allow such funding? The answers were:


Table 3 – Level of Interest following survey question 9

Not at all


Somewhat Against


Don’t Care


Somewhat in Favor


In Favor



Evidently 62% of participants are, at least somewhat, in favor. At first this may seem less favorable given the 14% decrease from previous support of science generally. However, sympathy has been increased within the group, which earlier gave astronomy only 2% support now giving 62% favorable opinions. Can we do better though?

            To help us understand these responses, we asked participants to write down what they thought was the main achievement of the space program. In reply, 16% cited technology that was transferable to other areas of science, 8% cited knowledge of exoplanets and extraterrestrial life, 8% cited knowledge about ourselves and our standing in the universe, 5% cited high-definition pictures and the other responses were too general or too individualistic for well defined categories (Appendix 2 gives the complete list of responses). Essentially, very few people were initially aware of the practical knowledge astronomy provides. Lets keep this in mind as we look at the next important question: knowing that important spin-off products from NASA include solar powered refrigerators and water purifying systems – both used in developing communities to provide basic necessities – are you more inclined to support bigger budgets to astronomical research? Recall that our initial questions showed 2% of the responders supporting increased funding for astronomy. With our last question we saw 62% supportive answers. Before this question, 16% of respondents claimed to be aware of inter-science advances from astronomical research. With this additional information, 70% of the respondents were either favorable or very favorable towards astronomy, 9% remained unsure and 14% remained against increased funding.

The last paragraph suggests that when people are more aware of the practical astronomical spinoffs they are more sympathetic. So the reason why public outreach has not achieved its full potential may partially be that it has failed to evolve and present the public with answers to practical questions. Earlier on we saw that people wanted science to contribute to energy self-sufficiency, education and green technologies. Do we need to emphasize that astronomy is much more than cool pictures, constellations and equations?


Part II – Examples of specific responses

Here we consider four selected examples of how knowledge may lead responders to choose certain options. The starting point is their answer to the question: Astronomical research and space exploration organizations have existed for many years. What would you say has been the biggest benefit brought on by these organizations?


“Space Ice cream ”

This was an interesting example of the triviality of a space program’s achievement. What support could we expect from someone who initially believes the best thing astronomers have done is to make dehydrated ice cream? This respondent is a Global Development Studies major, with 4 (1-10) enthusiasm for astronomy and most of his/her knowledge obtained in K-12 education. He/she believes that taxes should only be increased if we were to support education but nonetheless when presented with the budget reduction was somewhat in favor of expanding astronomical funding. As we might expect from a global development major, when presented with spinoff products from NASA used in developing communities the respondent has a change of mind and becomes in favor of extending astronomical funding.


“Beating the Russians”

            Another interesting response if only for its out-of-date humor. This is someone who thinks the biggest achievement we ever made was accomplished at least 21 years ago. The respondent is an engineer, with level 1 enthusiasm for astronomy, having learned most of his/her astronomy from television shows. The responses show a preference for an education-focused budget and little care about the NSF budget reduction. Nonetheless, after learning about spinoff technologies, the respondent became likely to support more funding for astronomy. Once again we see that it is possible to influence people, even if they are not very enthusiastic about the universe.

“Not sure…”

            “I feel the biggest benefit is that people can have a better understanding of basic astronomy knowledge. I’m not sure how this can affect society, but it is definitely better if we can all know better our position in our place.” This person is a politics major with a level 7 enthusiasm for astronomy whose knowledge on the subject comes mostly from college. The respondent believes that funding should go to education and is somewhat in favor of helping the NSF after learning about its budget. When presented with spinoff technologies however, the response was “Yes!” Inquiring into the meaning of the exclamation point would be another topic. However, there were not many people who answered as enthusiastically. Again, more information generates more support.

“Pictures of Mars”

            “Pictures” was a response that came up frequently; many respondents thought the best thing astronomers do is glorified photography. Here we have a biology/statistics double-major with level 8 enthusiasm for astronomy, who believes in the expansion of science funding if it benefits energy self-sufficiency. Despite the high enthusiasm however, this person was against increasing funds for astronomy, even after knowing about budget problems. After reading about spinoffs though, the response was a solid “YES.” Public opinion is fluid and user-relevant knowledge can clearly change it.


Conclusions and Discussions

By considering the responses to question number four (Appendix 2) in two different categories: a) material, non-intellectual, or b) intellectual, we see that roughly 30% of responses focus on material gains obtained through astronomy and 62% of responses focus on intellectual concepts (e.g. increased international cooperation). About 8% of the responses escape these classifications. Our survey shows us that people are more likely to support astronomy when they attach material gains to it. This suggests that the most efficient public outreach occurs when people understand that astronomy means more than inapplicable knowledge. Although pious statements about the exciting history of the universe and its contents may seem more relevant to astronomers, it is not so relevant to many of these students, as far as taxes are concerned. Let us now consider some examples of outreach in this context.

            Goals for Astronomy 101: A Report on Workshops for Department Leaders (Partridge & Greenstein 2003) focuses on how astronomy departments throughout American universities should structure their 101 courses in order to teach critical components to non-science majors. According to this study, there are nine major concepts that students should understand coming out of introductory astronomy lessons; none of these goals mentions knowledge of spinoffs. Furthermore, none of these goals refer to practical applications of astronomical knowledge.

            Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (McKee et al. 2001) makes it clear that outreach programs are extremely important in generating favorable support from the public. However, as in Goals for Astronomy 101, it relies on making individuals more curious about cosmology and teaching them concepts that astronomers find to be the most essential parts of basic astronomical knowledge. Both reports acknowledge that programs have come short of expected results. Meanwhile, they make it clear that astronomy has more potential for public outreach than any other science, since it is the elementary scientific course that enrolls the largest percentage of non-science undergraduates.

            There is a clear interest in our field to redesign outreach programs. And there is a clear frustration with the current state of our initiatives. However, most astronomers blame these deficiencies on under-taught undergraduates and seek to define the astronomical curriculum that teaches the best concepts. We find the current attempts in curriculum design to be sub-optimal according to our research. Emphasizing more practical results achieved through astronomy could make the public more sympathetic.

            A Multi-Institutional Investigation of Student’s Preinstructorial Ideas About Cosmology (Bailey et al. 2012) further supports policy approaches that stipulate certain minimums that students should be taught about astronomy. It is not our intention to say that all that has to be done to increase general interest in astronomy is to insert knowledge on spinoffs. However, in the process of improving our current curricula, there is much to be achieved by showing non-astronomy majors that our subject is in fact more relevant to their daily lives than they think. Survey question number 7 puts astronomical research in a separate category from research on green technologies, energy self-sufficiency, education and medicine. These need not be separated however. Spinoffs in our field have contributed to each of these individual categories. Our results show that when faced with separate choices people will rarely choose funding astronomy over funding various other areas. What our results also show is that by establishing a link between astronomy and benefits in different areas, people are more likely to increase support for astronomical funding.

            Attempts to increase public awareness of astronomy-derived material benefits are already being made, as discussed for example by NASA’s “Spinoff” publications. In the 2011 version there are 90 pages (out of 218) on the specific spinoffs produced that year in: public transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy, medicine, IT and industrial productivity. However, if one generates a Google search for “NRAO spinoffs” or “NSF spinoffs” there is little to be found. Thus, we are not offering a revolutionary approach. Our only claim is that much more attention be given to an operation already in progress.

            We have heard some concerns from fellow astronomers that the only reason why NASA is able to produce spinoffs is because of their multi-billion dollar budget and that organizations such as the NRAO do not have the capabilities to create well-known new technologies. However, our results indicate that non-astronomy majors do not differentiate between results provided by either NASA or the NSF. This indication comes from the wide diversity of answers to question four, where people valued achievements obtained in completely different areas of astronomy and the space program. Thus, we understand that spinoffs may be inhomogeneous over different areas of astronomy, but nonetheless think that all fields can benefit from a public made aware of practical results created by astronomy. Therefore we advocate an approach that on one side focuses on heightening the efforts of all organizations to publicize their spinoffs, while also utilizing elementary courses to inform the public about practical achievements which translate to heightened support for all fields of research.

            Furthermore, the presence of only 14% negative answers after respondents are introduced to spinoff products shows us the wide reach of this idea. From the diverse educational background (in terms of majors and astronomical interests) of the survey, we believe that user-relevant knowledge is able to influence most rational people. Even in the selected small sample of our study, results were remarkable when showing increased approval produced by introducing knowledge of spinoffs. Also, short, post-survey, informal interviews with respondents suggest that the one of the effects of the knowledge they acquired is a lasting support for astronomy.

            Making Astronomy Culturally Relevant (Ali 2010) explores the potential for outreach that is tailored around what is relevant to individual groups. However, it explores relevance from the standpoint of the astronomical facts (and resources) within a set culture. Ali argues that by selecting programs according to what fits a culture best, astronomers are able to make their programs more appealing. Our results show that making individuals aware of information which they think is “cool” is not enough. Our survey ultimately shows that when using information to judge the validity of funding, people’s perspective of relevance needs to be translated into usefulness – and few consider information to be useful on its own.

            The redesign of outreach programs should naturally take into consideration all the work regarding well-defined curricula and important astronomical concepts. But it must do more. If we are to reach out to the public in an effort to prove our research is worthy of their money, then we ultimately have to show them that there is more to be taken out of astronomy than curious facts.

In question 6 of our survey, 70% of respondents said they thought astronomy provided more than knowledge. Of these, 25% of them expanded their answers, mostly to say that they were unsure of what it provided or that astronomy was not capable of producing anything yet but there would come a day when we would be able to extract resources from space. If we compare the 70% of respondents who believed that astronomy provides more than curious facts with the kinds of responses we collected in question 4, we can see that even though people have a “feeling” that astronomy is more than simple knowledge, they cannot say what it is. We thus believe that efficient outreach has to capitalize on the abstract ideas that people have towards astronomy-related benefits by making them concrete. If we are able to do so, than as indicated by our results, people will become more willing to see tax money continue to fund astronomy.

People often talk about all the technology that came out of wars and how domestic appliances have emerged from military research. This is the time for us to use the same strategy with astronomy so that people can become aware of the many links between their daily lives and astronomical research. If we are able to do so, then people will see their taxes used for astronomy as an investment in their own lives, in contrast to money that will only bring a few curious facts. And once people understand taxes as something that can “come back to them” in the form of domestic goods, then we will have taken one more step in the direction of less constricted budgets.




Ali, N. 2010, “Making Astronomy Culturally Relevant,” Communicating Astronomy to the Public, 9, 18.


Bailey, J M., Coble, K., Cochran, G., Larrieu, D., Sanchez R., Cominsky, L. 2012, “A Multi-Institutional Investigation of Student’s Preinstructorial Ideas About Cosmology,” Astronomy Education Review, 11.


Eisenstein, D, et al. 2012, Advancing Astronomy in the Coming Decade: Opportunities and Challenges. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation


McKee, CF. et al. 2001, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


Partridge, B., Greenstein, G. 2003, “Goals for Astronomy 101: A Report on Workshops for Department Leaders,” Astronomy Education Review, 46, 2 (2).


Schwerin, B., Rademaker, L., Coleman, D., Jones, J. 2011, Spinoff. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office


Appendix 1. Survey Questions:

1) Which category bellow includes your age? (Possible answers: 17 or younger; 18-22; 23-30; 31-40; 41-50; 51 or older)

2) What is your major? (Open question)

3) On a scale from 1 to 10 – with 1 being completely apathetic and 10 being very enthusiastic – how interested in astronomy would you say you are? (Possible answers: numerical, 1-10)

4) Astronomical research and space exploration organizations have existed for many years. What would you say has been the biggest benefit brought on by these organizations? (Open question)

5) What is the biggest source of astronomical knowledge you have? (Possible answers: magazines; TV shows; Internet; K-12 education; high-school classes; college)

6) Do you think astronomical knowledge does more than provide curious facts and some knowledge? (Possible answers: yes and no + open box)

7) If there were to be an inevitable 0.0005% in US taxes prompted by a desire the national budget devoted to sciences in $100 million, where would you want to see that money invested? (Possible answers: medical research; development of green technologies; energy self-sufficiency; education; astronomical research and the space program)

8) How supportive are you of increasing or redistributing taxes in order to expand scientific funding? (Possible answers: not at all; somewhat against; don’t care; somewhat in favor; in favor)

9) Please consider these facts: The National Astronomical observatories is experiencing a severe budget crunch, having its size for the year 2012 27% smaller than its value in the year 2009. The current budget for this year is 26% smaller than the predicted values with a $45,4 Million shortfall. Increasing taxes by 0,0005% and dedicating that value entirely to the division of astronomical sciences would generate approximately 100M dollars in funds, more than twice the value of the budget shortfall. How likely would you be to support either a tax increase or a tax redistribution that would allow such funding? (Possible answers: against; somewhat against; don’t care; somewhat in favor; in favor)

10) Knowing that important spin-off products from NASA include solar powered refrigerators and water-purifying systems – both used in needy communities to provide basic necessities – are you more inclined to support bigger budgets to Astronomical research? (Open question)


Appendix 2. Specific Responses to Question 4:


1) Greater security, advancements in technology, international cooperation.

2) Discovery of many Earth-like planets.

3) The biggest benefit has been knowledge gained about our own home planet.

4) Trickle down tech for general use.

5) Feels like progress, shared experience for everyone, it's always better to have more information

7) Going to space

8)Encouraging youth to become interested in the final frontier. There are a lot of good Science Channel programs on these topics that make it interesting for the non-astronomer.

9) Better knowledge of what's around us?

10) Travelling to the moon.

11) Nothing.

12) Satisfy curiosity.

13) The most important benefit would be the development in technologies that positively impact various careers and professions using the technologies implemented in space technology. Research and ideas that stemmed from astronomical research and technologies related to that subject, brought on innovations that helped other scientists, doctors, even in everyday citizens. For example using the design of a space shuttle's fuel pump, a more efficient and effective design for a heart pump was created for surgeons and doctors to be able to use.

14) Wasting money.

15) Increased peaceful relations between nations [ in a non-state territory] joined with the insight into climate change.

16) Steps to interplanetary colonization.

17) Knowledge of the universe.

18) Development of other technologies that was brought on by the space race.

19) Investigating whether people can actually go live outside the Earth?

20) I don't know enough to say, but a larger understanding of the universe can help develop meaning and understand Earth.

21) New insightful mathematics derived from astrophysical and cosmological exploration/theory that has contributed to technological advancement.

22) Learning more about the true origin of our solar system.

23) Probably location services like GPS and stuff.

24) Knowledge of the forces that shape our world.

25) Cool pictures.

26) Satellites.

27) Insight on how the universe came to be.

28) Proof that there is so much we still don't know and so much that is worth learning.

29) Various technological advances in greener energy.

30) New technologies.

31) Research about life on other planets.

32) Scientific discoveries, learning more about our universe.

33) Morale boosting and emotional support within our nation during the Cold War era

34) Finding new celestial bodies with potential earthlike properties or necessary materials.

35) Expansion of technology in general due to astronomical research that led to practical applications.

36) Learning about the origins of the universe.

37) So much more room for activities.

38) More knowledge and topics for debating.

39) Studying the activity of the solar system helps us understand more about the Earths own geography and history.

40) Cool stuff.

41) A lot of stuff.

42) It has helped us have a greater understanding of the "bigger picture". Also.... These organizations provided information and ideas for my favorite show, The Big Bang Theory. BAZINGA!!!

43) Greater understanding of the universe (the "big picture").

44) I have no idea. Teflon?

45) Better understanding of the natural phenomena which exist in our universe and on a smaller scale on Earth.

46) Know that we are tiny particles compared to the universe.

47) The quest to prove the Big Bang Theory.

48) A deeper understanding of physics (and other sciences) at extreme has allowed many practical innovations and huge leaps forward in scientific exploration as a whole.

49) Technological innovations for the consumer market brought by space age research.

a better understanding of the universe.

50) New technologies.

51) Curiosity rover.

52) Pretty picture of stars.

53) Knowledge of materials and resources which aren't present on Earth or could not have been known had they not been examined in conditions not replicable on Earth.

54) Inspiring scientists, research that has an effect on other fields, discovering our origins.

55) I don't really know. I just know we understand the solar system marginally better than we did in the past but there must be bigger benefits than that...

56) Satellite technology.

57) The awe and inspiration they inspire and the great heights of human achievement they represent.

58) I think people are becoming really interested about space. Space education has become quite popular.

59) Income to areas that specialize in the space-exploration area (such as Cape Canaveral, Florida).

60) New inventions, National Pride.

61) Life on other planets.

62) A greater understanding of our universe.

63) Humans entering outer space.

64) Interesting facts as well as a steady yearning to want to know if there is something more out there.

65) Allow mankind to know more about its own environment, about its origins, its present and possibly also its future. I believe that space exploration has much scientific potential and interest, even for non-scientists.

66) As Columbus helped prove the earth was round by exploration, I think the biggest benefit of these organizations is the change of mindset they've created from space exploration and all we've learned about the universe. We're not the center of it and there's much, much more to be learned.

67) A better understanding of what is out there and what we are a part of, as a whole.

68) Better understanding of our own planet through comparison.

69) The expansion of knowledge. Some people say it’s a frivolous curiosity, but its not.

70) Discoveries about the conditions necessary for life-Goldilocks.

71) Prestige and a lot more information?

72) I feel the biggest benefit is that people can have a better understanding of basic astronomy knowledge. I'm not sure how this can affect the society, but it is definitely better if we can all know better about our position in our place.

73) Knowledge of astronomy allows humanity to better understand itself and its purpose in the greater context of the Universe.

74) The knowledge of what is in fact beyond our planet and the opportunities we could possibly have.

75) Beating the Russians.

76) Knowledge of what exist outside of Earth.

77) Knowledge of what actually exists in space.

78) Being able to somewhat have an understanding of where life came from.

79) Pictures of Mars.

80) New technology e.g. plastic Information about macro systems.

81) Don't know.

82) More knowledge of the universe.

83) In learning about the celestial bodies and planets around us, we've learned more about our own planet, Earth.

84) The discovery of our place in the universe.

85) Knowledge of the different types of planets and celestial bodies that exist in the universe.

86) Water filters.

87) The coming about of space stations.

88) Satellites, a deeper understanding of the universe.

89) Discovering new objects and aspects of outer space.

90) Advanced knowledge of the world we live in.

91) Space ice cream.

92) Technologies that have come about as a result of space exploration after NASA engineers (and other creative people) needed to come up with technologies that could feasibly be used in space. Also, just a general desire to learn more about what's out there, in space, has definitely been brought about through people being able to actually go there. Last one: A man was recently able to break the sound barrier while skydiving from the stratosphere (which they called space) - though we're not sure whether that was from insanity, I would say that it wouldn't have been possible without previous pioneering individuals who took on the challenges of space exploration.

93) Humans knowledge about the world is expanding.

94) Discovery of new planet.

95) Knowledge of unknown.

96) Hi-def images of other planets.

97) International collaboration.

98) American dominance over the Soviet Union.

99) Defense.

100) New discoveries that enlighten us about the universe we live in.


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[1] Carlos Pereira can be reached at

[2]  William Saslaw can be reached

[3] SurveyMonkey is a website that allows questionnaires with up to 10 questions and 100 responders for free.

[4] This question had a typographical error asking participants to consider a fraction of 0.0005% of the budget rather than a 0.005% fraction. The $100 million dollar value however was kept correct and the authors believe that participants were much more focused on the small nature of the number than on the specific difference between 0.005% and 0.0005%.

[5] The actual budget for the 2012 year is 26% smaller than the “predicted” budget. Predictions were made under the assumption that the “Astronomy purchasing power would grow 4% a year for the next 10 years.” With about 2.5% inflation a year, adjusted values have purchasing power increasing by 6.5% a year according to the NSF Portfolio Review.