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  Expense of extending Apollo-Saturn V program

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Author Topic:   Expense of extending Apollo-Saturn V program
Richard Easton

Posts: 119
From: Winnetka, IL USA
Registered: Jun 2006

posted 12-22-2012 08:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Easton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the last Moon landing. The Saturn V was discontinued and the space shuttle was developed during the 1970s. The Soviets took a different direction and continue using a modified Soyuz today.

An alternative would have been to upgrade the Saturn V and Apollo over time, flying one or two missions to the Moon every year. How would the expense of that have compared to the cost to develop and fly the shuttle?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-22-2012 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to The Space Shuttle Decision (SP-4221), each Saturn V cost $185 million (in 1969 dollars; inflation adjusted US $1.17 billion in 2012) to purchase and a single flight of a Saturn V with its Apollo spacecraft cost up to $375 million ($2.27 billion in 2012).

You really cannot fairly compare that to what the space shuttle actually cost, as that takes into consideration data not available at the time of the decision. The projected cost savings of the shuttle in 1969 negated any choice of extending and upgrading the Saturn V.

But that said, building space shuttle Endeavour cost $1.7 billion and each space shuttle launch cost about $1.5 billion (raw cost for each launch was $450 million).


Posts: 20
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 12-22-2012 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for pterodactyl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 2007 NASA Administrator Michael Griffin addressed this exact point in an essay "Human Space Exploration: The Next 50 Years". In part he said the following:
Once again, a look at the budgetary history provides a sobering lesson for the future, a sobering view of "what might have been." Let's recycle to the early 1970s, a time of budgetary starvation for NASA, a time when we did not yet have the Space Shuttle, but did still have the Apollo systems - the Saturn I-B and Saturn V, the Apollo command/service modules (CSM), the lunar lander, and the Skylab system. All of these things were in existence in 1973, having been created in that seminal first 15 years of our agency's history.

Make no mistake; these systems were far from perfect. They were expensive to develop and expensive to operate. Our parents and grandparents, metaphorically speaking, did not really know quite what they were doing when they set out to accept President Kennedy's challenge to go to the Moon. They learned as they went along. But what they eventually built worked, and worked well. And it could have kept working at a price we could afford.

Let's look at some recurring costs in dollars then and now. All costs include both hardware and mission operations, and are at the high end of the range of possibilities, because they take no advantage of stable rates of production. Fiscal 2000 costs are approximate, obtained by inflating programs in the aggregate, rather than tracking and inflating separate expenditures of real-year dollars.

ElementReal-Year $ MFY 2000 $ M
Apollo CSM50160
Apollo Lunar Module120400
Apollo Lunar Mission7202400
Saturn I-B35120
Saturn V3251100
Skylab Cluster275925

Let's assume that we had kept flying with the systems we had at the time, that we had continued to execute two manned Apollo lunar missions every year, as was done in 1971-72. This would have cost about $4.8 billion annually in Fiscal 2000 dollars.

Further, let us assume that we had established a continuing program of space station activities in Earth orbit, built on the Apollo CSM, Saturn I-B, and Skylab systems. Four crew rotation launches per year, plus a new Skylab cluster every five years to augment or replace existing modules, would have cost about $1.5 billion/year. This entire program of six manned flights per year, two of them to the Moon, would have cost about $6.3 billion annually in Fiscal 2000 dollars. The average annual NASA budget in the 15 difficult years from 1974-88 was $10.5 billion; with 60% of it allocated to human spaceflight, there would have been sufficient funding to continue a stable program of lunar exploration as well as the development of Earth orbital infrastructure. I suggest that this would have been a better strategic alternative than the choices that were in fact made, almost 40 years ago.

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