In a recent article in The Guardian I ran into the following statement about the Apollo astronauts:

On their way to and from the moon, each earned $8 a day, minus a fee for a bed on their Apollo spacecraft.

Is that statement accurate? It seems incredible that the astronauts would have to pay for their berth during a mission. If this is true what was the cost and justification for the fee?


1 Answer 1


Okay, this is misleading. They received beyond their normal salary the government Per Diem, which amounts to $8/ day. Also, this was reduced somewhat because they didn't need to pay for their sleeping locations. This is the same as any government travel, if they were traveling in a location where they didn't need to pay for their housing, they didn't receive that portion of their Per Diem.

FYI, the system is still the same today. For government employees to travel (And for those working government contracts), they receive a portion of their Per Diem for a hotel, and a second portion for their food. In fact, I suspect it was a bit of a breach to not also charge them for the food, giving them just their normal salary.

For reference Buzz Aldrin's Per Diem for his mission to the Moon comes to $33.31.

But they did receive their normal salary.

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    $\begingroup$ They did not get a mileage allowance? But they did not travel using their own car. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jul 8, 2019 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. I agree with you that per diem doesn't really seem to apply to their missions. Do you have a reference? Also I think you were being generous when you called that statement misleading. In my opinion it could be more accurately describes as dishonest. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jul 8, 2019 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/…, but that isn't what I would call the best source. Will see if I can find a primary source somewhere. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Jul 8, 2019 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson Well, the point of "mileage allowance" is to account for consumed fuel and required maintenance. The space analogue would probably be in two parts: the total impulse delivered (fuel and maintenance for propulsion) and total time spent (fuel and maintenance for life support etc.). $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Jul 9, 2019 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ What is the accounting definition of a day on the moon? $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2019 at 13:20

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