NASA looks at commercial side of International Space Station, seeks business partners

The Soyuz rocket leaves its assembly hangar via rail

The Soyuz rocket leaves its assembly hangar via rail

"Strong public support that the USA should continue to be at the vanguard of space exploration is widely shared across gender, educational and political groups".

When given the choice of humans or robots in future NASA space expeditions, 58 percent of American adults believe that human astronauts are essential, while 41 percent say that humans are not essential to these types of missions.

"We're in a position now where there are people out there that can do commercial management of the International Space Station", said the former Oklahoma congressman who was sworn in as leader of the space agency in April.

However, if NASA were to send expeditions into space, a majority of Americans say they consider it essential that humans, not exclusively robots, make the trip.

Many Americans are confident private space companies will be profitable, but are more skeptical they will keep space clean.

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Most of the respondents said NASA has an essential role to play in space exploration but foresee private companies making more meaningful contributions in areas like spacecraft development and scientific research.

When it comes to NASA's responsibilities, the poll finds that more Americans view monitoring the Earth's climate system or keeping an eye out for asteroids and objects that could hit Earth as NASA's top priorities.

This issue is very relevant due to the emergence of private companies, including Elon Musk's SpaceX, that are venturing out in space. "All of them have come back to Earth", he said.

Forty-one percent of Americans think developing technologies that could be adapted for other uses to be important, but of lower priority.

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