MOON WALK: Do Americans appreciate the achievement? - KMSP-TV

MOON WALK: Do Americans appreciate the achievement?

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This weekend marked the 44th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon -- but do the younger generations appreciate what the technological achievement meant?

An overwhelming 80 percent of Americans who were eight or older when Armstrong landed on the moon remember exactly where they were at the time of the event, but a 2009 survey showed that the moon landing had fallen in the public's view of top American achievements.

In fact, just 12 percent of Americans think putting a man on the moon was the nation's greatest achievement over the previous half century.

The U.S. realized it was deficient in the fields of science and technology back in the 1950s following the launch of Sputnik. This led to a national focus on education in these areas and a large increase in the number of scientists and engineers in the workforce.

Now, there are few iconic role models attracting the best and brightest students of today to those fields, leaving many to wonder if the 1969 moon landing was important for any other reason than creating sense of national pride.

The 2009 study found the Baby Boomer generation—born between 1946 and 1964—was the only group of Americans to remain consistent in their view of the man-on-the-moon achievement.

The Pew Research Center poll asked Americans to name the country's greatest accomplishment of the past 50 years. About a quarter of Americans (27 percent) said they viewed feats in science, medicine or technology as the greatest achievement. Fully 17 percent of the public said civil rights or equal rights were the greatest achievement in 50 years. Another 10 percent said electing a black president was the greatest accomplishment.

These figures represented a decrease in public opinion about the importance of space exploration since 1999. At that time, almost half of Americans (47 percent) mentioned accomplishments in science, medicine or technology as America's greatest achievement and 18 percent specifically mentioned space exploration and putting a man on the moon.

FOX 9 News spoke with James Flaten, associate director of the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium and associate professor at the University of Minnesota's aerospace engineering department, about the figures and what the future may be for space exploration.

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