Half of Americans Think Space Shuttle Retirement Bad for US, Poll Finds

Final space shuttle mission ends with night landing
Space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) touches down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), completing its 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, early Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Half of all Americans think the retirement of NASA's iconic space shuttle fleet is bad for the country, according to a new poll.

Fifty percent of Americans think mothballing the shuttles will end up being bad for the nation, while just 49 percent believe it will be good or have no effect, according to the poll, which was conducted by CNN.

With the shuttles grounded for good after the end of Atlantis' STS-135 mission, NASA now has no way to get its astronauts to space. Atlantis landed in Florida today (July 21) to cap NASA's 135th and last mission after three decades of shuttle flight.

NASA will book seats on Russian Soyuz spaceships in the short term, a prospect that many Americans aparently find unappealing. The poll found that 75 percent of Americans think the country should develop another spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts into orbit.

And this will indeed happen, most people believe. Eighty-seven percent of poll respondents have faith that the U.S. will develop another crew-carrying craft.

NASA does not plan to rely on Russia forever. The space agency wants private industry to develop vehicles that can ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and back, perhaps as early as 2015.

Most Americans seem to favor this commercial crew model, according to the poll. Fifty-four percent of respondents want private companies to run most American human spaceflight activities in the future, compared with 38 percent who prefer government to take the lead.

The firm ORC International conducted the poll for CNN from July 18 through July 20, interviewing 1,009 American adults by telephone. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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