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How much would it cost to go to the moon and live there as a civilian?


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I hear that a ticket to the space station will cost a regular civilian about 10 million bucks for a short stay orbiting around the earth.


So, if some mega-tycoon had the crazy bucks at their disposal. What would it take in the way of money (which I'm sure will be in the many billions) and equipment to actually take a person to the moon and live their sustainably?


I know this is one of the goals for nasa, but they are forced to be on a strict budget. So if the money was available, how much do you all would think would cost to go to and live on the moon as well as have trips back and forth to the earth as well?

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Intrigued by your question; I did some rough numbers


Cost of a moon mission in today's money = $150-$175 million

cost of getting cargo into near Earth orbit = $3000 per Kilogram

(once your in orbit, you spent most of your energy and money so getting it to the moon wouldn't cost too much more, say another $1000 per Kg)


Assuming you want to live in a relatively nice 'moon-house' you'd be living in something similar in size and weight to a bus, which weighs about 2000kg


So: (Including labour)

about $200,000,000 to get there

about $80,000 weekly grocery bill

about $40,000 weekly water bill (Although you may be able to recycle and bathe in you own "water")


so about $200,000,000 to get there and between 5,000,000 & 6,000,000 per annum to stay there.


I haven't worked out how to pay for air conditioning/heating cooking energy needs as yet.

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I'm really suprised the water costs less than the food given it's weight and the fact the food can be freeze dried, also amount of water needed to sustain life. Is this due to being able to recycle it once you're there?


Water has been proven to exist on the moon now anyway so perhaps those costs could be reduced substantially providing we find an efficient way to extract it.


I suppose I thought the food and water cost figures would have been the other way around but I must be missing something.

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The water costs were really a bit of guess work. given than we need about 1 litre per day, plus a bit more to wash.

Not sure how much could be recycled, probably most of it actually which would bring the water bill down a bit.

Thinking about it further, you could grow food in the 'bus-moon-house' I suppose.

Also, if a group of people decided to live on the moon, it might bring down the cost for each individual.

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Oops! it appears I have "Champagne taste and beer money"!


Have a look here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16126918/


turns out NASA reckon on spending over $100Bn


[This is why I'm not an accountant!]

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I think I could pretty much use a nuclear submarine as a "house". They aren't cheap. Then I need to ship it to the moon at $3 a gram.

I think this one weighs about 540 tons



Since I can't afford to ship myself to the moon, never mind a house, I can't be bothered doing the arithmetic.

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John, so that'd be 907 200 grams per ton and 540 tons total times $3 = 1.47Billion dollars. I think thats about right.


Hell bill gates has a net worth of 50 billion. That's only about 3% of his wealth just to place a moon house up there. That isn't too bad....if you're a multi-multi billionaire.

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Well that was based off the us short ton. But yea 1000000 * 540 * $3 = 1.62bill

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I also have another question regarding this. I know that there are plenty of people who have billions in the bank and of course their accounts are growing and they are probably always out for ways of investing their cash for further profits.


So would someone in the top 50 Forbes list be interested in starting a moon-base mining operation? I hear that helium 3 is a valuable resource along with the scientific discoveries to be made. Talk about getting in on the ground moon floor for a business opportunity that can only expand that entrepreneur's empire.

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I think $1.6B is wildly optimistic. You can't launch a single object the size of a nuclear submarine, the rockets available don't have the weight capacity. Therefore you would need to include the price of assembly of this station on the moon. Construction in space is orders of magnitude more difficult than on earth and the costs astronomically more. Which is probably why NASA has placed the cost at $100B, and even this is probably an underestimate as NASA programs typically cost considerably more than initially thought.


Helium 3 is possibly useful for nuclear fusion (clean energy). But since we can't really make nuclear fusion power generation happen in a way that is cost effective, there is no point to adding greatly to the cost of nuclear fusion by going to the moon to harvest He3. The people in the Forbes top 50 list didn't get their money by poor investments.

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I think that what you really would want to know, would be what would be the cost per person to send/have ~10,000 people on the moon. Otherwise the R&D costs are going to hurt. Also, we're not hermits for the most part, and you might decide you want a doctor or a dentist or a... Also to be a self-sufficient colony you will need a lot of people; otherwise the aforementioned grocery bill is going to hurt. Likewise, making a closed environment for 1 person will be much harder than for several people (on a per person basis) because there will be so much more fluctuation.


The submarine mentioned as a moon house won't work, and would be too expensive to send anyways. The pressure-resistant hull would be wasteful weight, and there is no ocean to draw oxygen from.


You'd probably want to grow your own food at the moon, as that would also recycle your CO2. Otherwise you need to add oxygen shipments to your grocery bill; and the oxygen will weigh a little over what your food will weigh dry (if your food is a sugar-based food). Also if you use CO2 scrubbers then you need the weight of that as well as the oxygen.

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  • 3 years later...

NASA: $593,458,451,939.06 US dollars, assuming they started today, they'd be ready to go 5 years from now. It would take 18 - 19 launches to get 4 people and everything required to survive, between 75 - 95% efficiency, depending on how you live. Oh, and based on past experience, they'd then burn the rockets and forbid anyone from ever returning to visit or resupply you and your friends.


Lunar Colony Project: $35,596,752,052.45 US dollars, starting in 3 - 5 years. It will take 23 manned + 4 unmanned launches to get everything to the Moon...for 90 people. They'll have most of what's required, about 82 - 95% efficiency. And it will take a whopping 2 launch vehicles to accomplish the feat. Then again, we're not Government or Corporate but PEOPLE-driven.


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Oh, we'll have Internet and Phone, too...something NASA would likely forget to set up. (Wow! Those equipment and connection charges are GIANT!)

Roskosmos would just go with low-speed lines, likely with 30 fps video feeds. (Russia's cash-strapped, OK?)


No, even on my best day, I don't do Politically Correct. ;-)


Edited by swansont
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Elon Musk expects to cut the cost of launching into orbit by 1/100th within a few years by making everything reusable, from booster to crew vehicle. I believe that makes payload cost about $220/kg from Earth to orbit.


NASA believes the Moon has lots of water.

Edited by EdEarl
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Actually, Mr. Musk assumes a number of things are used up (expended) during the landing; both an Mars and on Earth. Unless he's planning on heat shield/retro rocket landings; no parachutes. Unlike personnel jumps, spacecraft parachutes are not reusable. The degradation in material strength due to exposure to the space environment (unless you're assuming they're kept heated and rad-shielded throughout the space voyage) means you have to discard them. The fabric is capable of multiple drops; it's the straps which are not. NASA did a few thousand tests on just that question; for several decades.


At 1/1500th, a Saturn V-class vehicle would run to $1,057,483.15 (hardware) + 9,523,209.41 (propellant) + 3,550,204.61 (Admin & Facilities) US / launch. The Saturn V could loft 118 tons to LEO or 47 tons on a TLI trip. (Lunar payloads had to slow themselves up to about 1,060 m/sec, further reducing the effective LLO payload to at or near 30 - 35 tons, maximum. Landing would take an additional load, minimum of 1,870 m/sec...nominally around 2,350 - 2,570 m/sec. Which puts your ability to throw to the lunar surface right around 25 - 28 tons.


So the Falcon Heavy lifts 53 tons plus launch fairing (around 2 tons from the Internet scuttlebut) to LEO. Then you have to lift a second payload up, to propel the first to lunar orbit. Part of the first payload including the lunar lander. That puts you at 106 tons to LEO and about 39.75 tons to the lunar surface. For which he's assuming a minimum charge of $1,336,667.18 US, adjusted for inflation -- assuming the 2 launches occur during 2014. Since the propellant costs almost that amount, I somehow doubt his assertion he can decrease launch costs by a factor of 100. I'd rely more on a factor of 33 1/3.


And the numbers I quoted were NASA numbers, not SpaceX. Elon Musk's SpaceX already launches for around 1/15th of NASA costs. So, the inference I'm making is: "NASA is overcharging the people of the United States by a factor of 1,500?" Sorry, I just don't buy it. I've been watching the space market for longer than Mr. Musk has been out of short pants. He may be a billionaire but he's had few setbacks, of late. Those can delay your entire launch schedule by YEARS, for a single incident. (Which goes a long way to explain a doubling of NASA costs...to 7.5x SpaceX rates.) Statistically, launch failures occur at a rate of 1:5 to 1:20, around the minimum.


Or are his rockets So Good they're supposed to last 100 launches? That's what the Engineers quoted NASA prior to the commencement of the STS Space Shuttle program. And they lasted around 30 - 35 launches, average. So you can take that 1/100th estimate and go ahead and reduce it to 33 1/3. Which puts a Saturn V-class, reusable) SLV at around $40.241 M-USD total cost/launch and SpaceX at $8.91 M-USD/2 launches. That actually sounds realistic, 4.5 - 5x cheaper than a NASA re-usable system.


My estimates put the target of 4 people (plus equipment) on the moon at $290.25 M-USD, 3 - 5 years from today...at the 1/100th price point...which, as I stated before, isn't a realistic target. More like $251.76 M-USD for a "fully reusable launch vehicle." Then again, my goals are different: colonization vs. simple transportation. And that includes the payload, not just launch costs.

Edited by Ravaun
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  • 4 weeks later...

If there was a moon house a civilian could buy, would companies make people pay for "oxygen bills?"


Certainly - although in future it could be included council rates ( not sure of other nation's terminology) with such things as water, garbage collection etc. But oxygen will be a scarce and expensive commodity and this people will be charged for it. Would be interesting to know how many square metres of greenhouse would be needed to support one person's oxygen needs

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Alright, I'm gonna give it a shot too. Firstly, I'll make a list of what I'd like to have to 'live sustainably'. In my opinion, this requires a little luxury too, or you'll go insane in your tin can. Then I'll guestimate the weight of that. And then we can add a price tag, which will consist only of launch costs, and will not include development costs.


We would need:

1. Living quarters for at least 2 people (alone is boring, want someone else there too), including a bathroom, toilet, lounge with view, air lock, bedroom, kitchen, storage.

2. A sizable greenhouse for food and oxygen production. Made of light-weight plastics. You probably want to super-size this (1 hectare per person), and burn off excess plants that you don't want to eat. Better too much than too little. Needs to be able to shield sunlight to imitate earth's day/night cycle, and light it during the long night. I'm assuming you cannot grow food with a monthly 2-week-long night.

3. Electricity production, including a huge battery pack to provide power during the 2-week-night.

4. An oxygen buffer that can last 1 month (2 weeks darkness, 2 weeks extra buffer just in case).

5. Waste water treatment and recycling facility.

6. Some means of transportation (on solar power).


That would weight a guestimated:

1. Living quarters: 400 tons. I just took the weight of the ISS. Meh.

2. Greenhouse: 200 tons. Soil excluded. Foundation excluded too, we'll use lunar soil, and somehow make sure our water doesn't leak away.

3. Solar cells: negligible. Battery: 500 tons. (20 Watts of light for the greenhouse, for 12 hrs per day, for 30 days in a row, at 265 Wh/kg).

4. I guestimate you'd need about 60 m3 of pure oxygen in a month. Multiply by 100 to make sure you do not notice a drop in oxygen level during the night, and you need 6,000 m3 of oxygen. Add nitrogen (80%), and you need approximately 30,000 m3, so (rounded off) 30 tons of 'atmosphere'. That inconveniently makes your greenhouse volume 30,000 m3 too, making its height about 1.5 meters high. So, we'll take 50 tons of atmosperic gas, so we can have a 2 hectare greenhouse at 1 bar, and 2.5 meters high.

5. Water needs 30 days to be cleaned (rough guess), so let's say we need 5 tons of water for the inhabitants. And we'll get all the rest from our ice-mines on the Moon itself.

6. Our Moon-rover will be 3 tons.


Grand total: about 1150 tons of material. Let's just round that up to 1,200 tons. Costs are based on the 200 $/kg to LEO mentioned earlier. So, to the moon it's perhaps 2000 $/kg (we'll need fuel to land it safely too). Total costs: 2.4 billion.


Sounds like a bargain.

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