August 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm #11112
According to the information used to determine Apollo cost figures (as provided to me by James Pura):
The Apollo Lunar Program (conducted from 1962 to 1973) comprised 17 missions with six successful moon landings between 1969 and 1972. The total program cost (in 2005 dollars) was roughly $170 billion.
That total included all research and development (R&D) costs; the expense of procuring 15
Saturn V rockets, 16 command/service modules (C/SMs), 12 lunar modules, program support and management costs; construction expenses for facilities and their upgrading, and costs for flight operations.
Notice that the $170B refers to 17 missions. So, if I follow this correctly, is it not incorrect to divide the total cost by only the six successful lunar landings as is stated in the video?
Yes, the $170B refers to 17 missions, but we’re not measuring the cost of each mission. We’re measuring what it cost per moon landing, for which there were only 6.
I called James for further discussion:
I am concerned that this is a misuse of the figures and is thus damaging to both the video and Space Frontier Foundation image.
JeffAugust 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm #11134
The video uses the ‘how much did you get for what you paid for’ approach, which is probably the simplest idea. Total Program/# of times goal achieved. The Apollo Program includes all the cost of R&D, test launches etc. At the time almost everything was new, for lunar missions in a settlement strategy many of the pieces are used for other parts of the strategy making comparing ‘programs’ challenging.
Apollo didn’t start actually going to cis-lunar space until Apollo 8, while Apollo 2 & 3 designations were left empty. So there were 5 test flights in LEO, 3 test flights in cis-lunar space and 7 missions to the lunar surface with one abort [citation][citation].
Settlement allows for each of these testing steps to be part of a larger strategy instead of a serial string on the way to the Lunar surface. Rockets are tested delivering supplies to LEO, other technologies are tested transferring supplies to L-1 and lunar landing technologies are tested robotically landing useful supplies on the surface and preparing for ground crew.
Comparing the two programs isn’t easy. Looking at the Apollo Program in hindsight we can see all the failures and successes of a mission, while we don’t know the success rate of future missions. The Apollo Program goals were also very different from settlement as they had a mission of finite span. The settlement strategy would be to create the infrastructure for a sustainable human presence at LEO, L-1 and the Lunar Surface while also, and because of, fulfilling the mission of exploration. This infrastructure, commercial utility and further technology development would lead to future trips to the lunar surface that are even cheaper than the tax payer buying two for $2.7B.
Is there a better way to compare the two programs than successful landings?
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