How Much Money Does It Cost To Travel To The Moon?

The Apollo program kept the American public captivated. It gave us some great film and photos, and some timeless soundbites. It also cost $28 billion. In today's dollars, that's roughly equal to $288 billion.

And now, NASA is finally planning to go back. But can we really afford to do that? How much would it cost to send humans to the moon in the 2020s, considering that we have new and better technology and would not have to start the whole endeavor from scratch?

According to, NASA's preliminary estimates for the cost of a modern moon landing are roughly $20 to $30 billion which A) is a ridiculous amount of money and B) is not nearly as ridiculous as $288 billion. That estimate includes a whole lot of stuff that the first moon landings didn't have, too, like building a space station on the moon, working with commercial and international partners, and visiting the moon's south pole. Also, the program would be implemented primarily as a practice run for going to Mars, so it's not like we're just proving a concept, which is really what those first moon landings were all about. We're actually preparing to do even bigger and better things.

Prices for moon landings subject to change

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says some savings will come from the fact that the SLS rocket and Orion capsule already exist and won't have to be built from scratch. So we do have the benefit of all the things we've learned in the past and all of our current technologies.

Keep in mind, though, that it's notoriously difficult to make decent cost estimates when it comes to endeavors where there are a lot of unknowns, and trips to space are full of unknowns. So NASA's current estimate could change by 2024, which is when they're saying we'll be ready to go to the moon again. Or it could change after 2024, once the program is underway and suddenly someone realizes that they forgot to account for the poop disposal or lunar alien defense systems. Perhaps they could combine them both to save money?