The Public Economics of Space Exploration

Last registered on April 13, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

The Public Economics of Space Exploration
Initial registration date
April 06, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 13, 2023, 3:49 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
TU Dresden – Faculty of Business and Economics; Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)
PI Affiliation
University of Bremen SOCIUM

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Public support is vital to the space industry because the sector still receives about one-third of its funding from governmental budgets. Therefore, research and the media have extensively investigated and debated citizens’ opinions toward space expenditures. Various factors, for example, the overestimation of the actual space budget and sociodemographic characteristics have been identified as relevant determinants of public support for space funding. Existing research is insufficient for two reasons. First, research is primarily concerned with the public opinion toward government space agencies. With the emergence of the new space industry, this approach is no longer valid, as public support might change depending on whether a governmental agency or a private company receives funding. Second, while literature primarily focuses on the United States (U.S.), other nations have taken on significant roles in space exploration as well. We extend existing literature by analyzing nine leading space nations and considering the impact of the new space industry on the public opinion of space expenditures. We will investigate the public opinion of space funding and the effectiveness of different communications strategies using statistical hypotheses testing and regression analysis. Our data will be extracted from an online experiment with over 2000 citizens.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Fehrler, Sebastian, Lars Hornuf and Daniel Vrankar. 2023. "The Public Economics of Space Exploration." AEA RCT Registry. April 13.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We investigate citizens’ opinions on funding for space exploration. We examine if it is relevant for public opinion whether taxpayer money benefits public or private entities. We also test whether the efforts of competing nations in space influence public opinion on domestic space budgets.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Participants state their opinion on funding for space exploration on a five-point Likert scale. The dependent variable is the answer to the question: “In your opinion, should funding for space exploration in [YOUR COUNTRY] increase, decrease or stay about the same?”. Scale: 1 = Greatly Increase; 2 = Increase; 3 = Stay about the same as it is now; 4 = Decrease; 5 = Greatly Decrease, with [YOUR COUNTRY] being a placeholder for the respective country of the respondent.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
In addition to our dependent variable, we also record multiple control variables. Some of these questions are also of interest outside their function as control variables for this experiment.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
We ask the participants with several statements and a 5-point Likert scale about their attitudes towards specific types of space missions and global cooperation in space. We also survey citizens about their overall priorities and concerns for space policy.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Using an online experiment, we plan to test our hypotheses while relying on a between-subject design. The participants are divided into a total of five groups (One treatment with two scenarios and one treatment with three scenarios). After their respective treatment, participants will answer a survey to control for any relevant variables and characteristics.
Experimental Design Details
We use an online study with two treatments to test our three hypotheses. To test our first hypothesis, we ask all participants to estimate their nation's space budget as a percentage of the total budget using a slider. Participants are then assigned to one of the two treatments. For treatment 1, participants are presented with either a scenario in which the space budget benefits government agencies or a scenario in which the money benefits private space companies. Subsequently, their attitude towards space funding is queried using the Likert scale explained in the “Primary Outcomes” section.

Alternatively, those participating are assigned to treatment 2. First, participants are asked which country they consider to be in competition with their own nation. They are then randomly assigned to one of three different scenarios. These three scenarios consist of one control group and two different information treatments. Afterward they answer the same Likert scale as the other group, which received treatment 1.
After answering this question, the two groups answer various control questions as well as an incentivized question. This question is designed to control for their general attitude toward space and gives the participants a real budget that they can donate to different causes.

Our hypotheses will be tested with citizens from nine different countries. Our sample is provided by SurveyMonkey. The composition of our samples in the various countries is based on the latest census in terms of age and gender.
Randomization Method
Participants are randomly instructed by the survey program to select one of two treatment paths.
Randomization Unit
The individual participant is randomly assigned to one of the two treatments. All participants in a given treatment are then randomly assigned to a specific scenario within the treatment.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Nine Countries with 235 participants per country.
Sample size: planned number of observations
2215 participants from 9 different countries. That number includes 100 participants for a pretest in the USA.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Five scenarios with 47 participants each.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The calculation for our sample size is based on an expected medium effect size, which equals d=0.5 according to Cohen 1992 Cohen, J. (1992). Statistical power analysis. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1(3), 98-101.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

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Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials