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But NASA's new administrator, former Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, has some other priorities. Even as private companies are emerging in the industry, NASA remains an absolutely necessary source of space discovery, according to study participants.

With so much coverage given these days to unmanned rocket launches by the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that we do actually continue to stick folks inside those super-powerful contraptions and send them into space.

The three astronauts aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket are scheduled to arrive at the orbital space laboratory by the end of the week.

Rather than dismantling the space station, the memo said, the plan was to "expand global and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit".

Across nine specific NASA missions, the majority of participants believe the priority should be monitoring key parts of the Earth's climate system or monitoring asteroids and other objects that could hit Earth.

In the decades since the US landed astronauts on the moon, the landscape of space exploration has changed dramatically as other countries have expanded their capabilities and private companies have taken on larger roles. "Sending astronauts into space is one of the most visible of the USA space programs over time".

Twenty-six percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence that private companies will be able to build safe and reliable spacecraft, and 23 percent don't have too much confidence, or have no confidence at all. Forty-seven percent of surveyed Americans expressed a fair amount of confidence that private companies could conduct basic research and increase our knowledge of space.

Also, half of Americans (50%) believe people will routinely travel to space as tourists within the next 50 years.

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