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In July 1999 the Gallup Organization conducted an extensive poll on space issues to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. One of the questions concerned the number of astronauts who have actually walked on the Moon. Figure 9.9 shows that only 5% of those asked correctly answered that twelve different men have walked on the Moon. A vast majority (77%) of the respondents guessed too low. Another 11% guessed too high, and 7% had no opinion.

As shown in Table 9.4, only 50% of the people asked in July 1999 correctly named Neil Armstrong as the first person to walk on the Moon. Gallup reports that young people aged eighteen to twenty-nine were most likely to give the correct answer, despite the fact that the event occurred before they were born.

FIGURE 9.9 Public opinion poll on how many men have walked on the Moon, 1999 Adapted from Frank Newport, "Just Your Best Guess—How Many Different Men Have Walked on the Moon?" in Landing a Man on the Moon: The Public's View, The Gallup Organization, July 20, 1999, (accessed January 31, 2006). Copyright © 1999 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.

Other astronauts receiving votes included John Glenn (13%), Alan Shepard (4%), and Buzz Aldrin (2%). More than a quarter of the people asked (28%) could not come up with an answer at all.

Gallup asked the same question back in July 1989 on the twentieth anniversary of the first human lunar landing. At that time only 39% of respondents gave the correct answer. The other 61% either did not know the answer or gave an incorrect answer.

Over a three-day period in early August 2003 Gallup pollsters asked 534 adults whether there were any U.S. astronauts in space at that time or not. Exactly half of the people contended that there were no U.S. astronauts in space at that time. Another 35% believed that U.S. astronauts were in space, while 15% had no opinion or did not know.

In reality there was one U.S. astronaut in space at the time. NASA Science Officer Ed Lu was aboard the ISS. The ISS has been continually inhabited by at least one American astronaut since 2000.

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