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Inmarsat report finds American space investment is soaring, as public opinion wanes

Investment in space in America shows no signs of slowing down, reaching almost $55 billion in government spending in 2021, with the private sector committing a further $23 billion in the US alone in the same year. Yet despite America’s long-time space supremacy, and ever-growing financial commitment, US citizens are not as enamoured by space as could be expected.

Research from Inmarsat found that just 1 in 10 US respondents are interested in working in the space sector, compared to 24% in India and 27% in Japan. Meanwhile, 39% are excited about what could happen in space, again fewer than in India (46%), which came out on top, and the UAE (43%).

Just a third of those living in the US are curious about what happens in space (35%) – compared to 54% of Brazilians, 48% of South Koreans, and 44% in China and the UAE – though this does rise to 44% among Gen-Z Americans.

What is clear is that newer entrants into the space race, despite significantly lower investment in the sector from both the public and private sectors, are seeing greater interest and enthusiasm from their citizens. India, for example, saw just $2 billion of public sector investment in 2021 – yet leads globally on excitement and interest in space and its citizens’ desire to work in the sector.

Rajeev Suri, CEO, Inmarsat, said “It is a very exciting time for the space sector, and the US is leading the way financially, contributing far more than anywhere else in driving progress for the sector, especially in crewed missions. The benefits from space, from communications and safe transport to efficient trade and movement of goods around the world, are significant in the US and the industry has to do a better job of explaining how all our lives are enhanced by it.”

One thing the US does lead on, however, is hopefulness. Almost half (48%) are hopeful about the possibilities of space, compared to the global average of just 32%, and far ahead of a much less optimistic UK (8%) and Japan (13%). This may be thanks to booming private sector investment, as new innovations and advances gain attention – from 22 tourists reaching the Karman Line in the first major advancements in space tourism, to the highest-ever number of global launch attempts in 2021.

“Space allows us to better study and understand our home planet so we can be better stewards of Earth, said former astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, Scott Kelly. “It also gives us perspective on humanity when you look at the planet without political borders and with a thin and fragile atmosphere. To see Earth hanging there against the black void of space makes us want to take care of our home even more.”

While a booming satellite sector is the primary area of growth in space activities – with $28 billion invested globally in 2021, $6 billion of which was in the US alone – it is clear that public understanding of satellites has a long way to go. Just 46% of those in the US said they associate space with satellites, which was also the global average, and just 9% link space with communications and connectivity.

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