The United States spent $28 billion to land men on the Moon between 1960 and 1973, or approximately $283 billion when adjusted for inflation. Spending peaked in 1966, three years before the first Moon landing. The total amount spent on NASA during this period was $49.4 billion ($482 billion adjusted).
|Project Apollo, 1960 - 1973||Actual||Inflation|
|Spacecraft||$8.1 billion||$80 billion|
|Launch Vehicles||$9.4 billion||$97.3 billion|
|Development & Operations||$3.1 billion||$28.2 billion|
|Direct Project Costs||$20.6 billion||$205.3 billion|
|Ground Facilities, Salaries, & Overhead||$5.2 billion||$53.8 billion|
|Total Project Apollo||$25.8 billion||$260 billion|
|Robotic Lunar Program||$907 million||$10.1 billion|
|Project Gemini||$1.3 billion||$13.8 billion|
|Total Lunar Effort||$28 billion||$283 billion|
These data were compiled from original budget justification documents provided by the NASA Historical Reference Collection at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Inflation represents 2020 dollars adjusted using NASA's New Start Index (NNSI) for aerospace projects. Source data available as a Google spreadsheet or an Excel spreadsheet
Apollo and NASA
NASA considered plans for a crewed lunar landing as early as 1959 and pursued early concept studies in 1960. These early studies allowed the space agency to respond quickly and affirmatively to President Kennedy's inquiry in April 1961, when he asked if "we have a chance of beating the Soviets...to go to the moon and back with a man" and to provide the nation with a "space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win".
The national priority of Project Apollo is clear from the following charts. In 13 years, the United States spent the equivalent of $283 billion to build a human lunar program from scratch. During this period, 3 out of every 5 dollars for the space program went toward Apollo and related programs. This spending proved unsustainable. NASA's budget fell dramatically from its peak in the mid-1960s, and though it flattened out as it entered the 1970s, Apollo spending continued to decline. After billions of dollars and 6 successful lunar landings, the United States ended support for the program. NASA's official budget proposal in 1973 stated simply that "the planned objectives of the Apollo program have been accomplished. FY 1974 funding is not required."
Total costs for Project Apollo and all related programs, per fiscal year, displayed against NASA's annual monetary obligations. Amounts adjusted for inflation. Source data.
Apollo and Related Programs Cost Per Year
The chart below displays the costs of major programs within Project Apollo. It is easy to see that the two largest expenditures were for the Saturn family of launch vehicles and the spacecraft that would ride atop them. Both express the classic project development "cost curve" shape of their spending profiles, in which costs peak in advance of the program activity itself (in this case, before landing on the Moon). The overall cost of the project declines as work shifts from research and development into production and operations. Absent healthy early funding in space projects, hard problems remain unsolved, deadlines are missed, and overall costs increase. This chart shows that Project Apollo had the money it needed when it needed it, which helped ensure the success of the endeavor. Few NASA programs since have enjoyed that luxury, and as a consequence, failed to adhere to their original schedules.
Spending on Apollo and related programs, broken out by major program, per fiscal year. Amounts adjusted for inflation. Source data.
Command and Service Module (CSM)
NASA spent $3.8 billion on the Command and Service Module (CSM), or approximately $38.4 billion in 2020 dollars.
Annual spending on the Command and Service Module (CSM) compared to the direct costs of Project Apollo. Amounts adjusted for inflation. Source data.
Lunar Module (LM)
NASA spent $2.4 billion on the lunar module (LM), or approximately $23 billion in 2020 dollars.
Annual costs for the Lunar Module (LM) compared to the direct costs of Project Apollo. Amounts adjusted for inflation. Source data.
Saturn Launch Vehicles
The United States spent $9.4 billion ($97.3 billion adjusted) on the Saturn family of rockets. This includes $864 million ($10.4 billion adjusted) on the Saturn I, $1.1 billion ($11.1 billion adjusted) on the Saturn IB, $6.6 billion ($66 billion adjusted) on the Saturn V, and $880 million ($9.6 billion adjusted) on related engine development.
The final Saturn V rocket launched Skylab in 1973. The final Saturn IB launched the final Apollo CSM on the Apollo-Soyuz project in 1975.
Direct costs for the Saturn family of launch vehicles and related engine development, per year. Amounts adjusted for inflation. Source data.
"Reconstructing the Cost of the One Giant Leap" discusses the sources, methods, and motivation of this project.
Nearly all cost data are from public NASA budget submissions covering the fiscal years (FYs) 1961 - 1974, which list obligations (contracted spending amounts) for the fiscal year 2 years previous. For example, the FY 1969 budget justification lists obligated program amounts in FY 1967. NASA Headquarters' Historical Reference Collection digitized these budget documents, which The Planetary Society has made available for download. Exceptions are listed below.
Tracking and Data Acquisition Research & Development, Construction of Facilities, Facilities Operations & Salaries, FYs 1961 - 1968: "Manned Lunar Landing Program, Code B Official Assessment." Undated, but likely 1969. Budget Operations Division. Record Number 18194. Box 1. NASA HQ Historical Reference Collection. Washington, D.C.
Tracking and Data Acquisition Research & Development, Construction of Facilities, Facilities Operations & Salaries, FYs 1969 - 1973: "Lunar Landing and Lunar Exploration Program Cost Summary." Dated 2/27/1973. Budget Operations Division. Record Number 18194. Box 1. NASA HQ Historical Reference Collection. Washington, D.C.
Project Gemini and robotic lunar program: Van Nimmen, Jane and Leonard Bruno. "NASA Historical Data Book, 1958 - 1968 Vol 1: NASA Resources." NASA Historical Series. Washington, D.C. 1976.
Inflation adjustments: 2019 NASA New Start Index (NNSI) [Excel Spreadsheet].