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The Cost of Space Travel
To send one pound into space it costs:
Low Earth Orbit (LEO)
- 230 miles
- Russian Soyuz
- ISS Ferries
- 139m miles (avg)
- NASA’s Curiosity
- 235,855 miles
- NASA’s Apollo
The Cost of Travelling to the Moon
While NASA is pondering options, private space companies are also preparing their boosters. Here are some estimates for the price of a Moon taxi:
Launch costs only. Development costs not included.
- $0.3bn Space Adventures DSE – Alpha mission – Soyuz spacecraft (orbit only)
- $1.5bn Golden Spike Atlas 5 combined with Space X Falcon
- $2.0bn NASA SLS, Orion capsule and Altair Lunar Lander.
The Cost of Shelter
The Moon is one of the most hostile places in our solar system.To make it habitable, you need a shelter, which can:
- withstand small meteorites and their ejecta;
- cope with great variation of temperature:
- -153c at night
- 107c during the day
- shield you from the radiation and of solar flares and cosmic rays;
- keep out the toxic lunar dust.
$7.35bn The estimated annual operation cost of a 4 person lunar base.
$456mThe annual rent of 110 m3living space on a modified Bigelow BA 330-MDS for 6 people.
The Cost of Sustenance – food
A human adult requires around 800,000 calories a year to survive.
2 Lunar Greenhouses developed by the University of Arizona, could produce enough food to feed a single person…
- 5kg of lettuce
- sweet potatoes
- and strawberries.
However, the Greenhouses require feeding too, so you’ll have to take 36.5kg of fertiliser to keep them growing.
Cost of Purchasing and Transporting:
$5.9bn – NASA
$1.7bn – Golden Spike
The Cost of Sustenance – water
- A human adult astronaut currently uses needs around 10.6 tons of water a year.
- The lunar greenhouses would also require 3.13 tons of water a year to function.
Cost of Shipping and Storage Equipment:
$13bn Golden Spike
The Cost of Sustenance – air and power
A human adult requires 675.25 lbs of oxygen every year. 81% of the required oxygen would be provided by 2 Lunar Greenhouses.
19% of the oxygen you require could be recycled from your breath vapour by Solid Oxide Electrolysis with an Embedded Sabatier Reactor.
Both the green houses and the sabatier require power. Night time on the Moon lasts for a month, meaning you cannot rely on the sun.
Idaho National Laboratory’s ‘suitcase’ nuclear reactor is a frontrunner for a potential power source on the moon. Weighing in at 11 tons, the INL reactor could provide enough power to run a lunar farm and habitat.
Cost of Assembling and Shipping the Power and Air Equipment:
- $1.5bn NASA
- $1.4bn Golden Spike
The Cost of Communication
The Moon has only one ‘mobile provider’ NASA.
- Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter ((LRO) data costs 3.2c per Mb.
- 1-minute phone call to Earth (0.5Mb – LRO) costs 1.6c.
- Texting home from the Moon (0.00013 Mb) would cost 0.000416c
- On Earth the best deal is around 3.0c per Mb.
Average 1-minute call on Earth costs:
- 10c Europe
- 3c U.S.
16c The cost of sharing a 5MB image via Instagram from the Moon.
Downloading ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ (about 4Mb) would cost 12.8c
So, to travel to the Moon, with shelter, and enough supplies for a year, and 100 gigabytes a month for entertainment would cost you:
- $57.8bn NASA
With NASA rockets, Lunar Gardens and the NASA moon base.
- $16.6bn Golden Spike
Using Golden Spike rockets, Lunar Gardens and the Bigelow Shelter.
This might seem like a lot, but compared to the $398.6bn being spent on the latest US warplane – the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, it’s moondust.
If spent on lunar colonization rather than a fighter jet, this amount could have sent 24 people to the Moon using their own private rocket, with each having enough to survive a year.
Looks like the Moon is not too out of reach!