We know how much the Apollo program cost:

The United States spent \$28 billion to land men on the Moon between 1960 and 1973, or approximately \$288 billion when adjusted for inflation.


While landing on the moon has great intrinsic difficulty, it seems like much of the cost was from meeting the end-of-decade deadline. Some possible reasons (from this NASA article):

  • In 1961 we had not even started Gemini, which demonstrably overran its budget significantly: "[...] difficulties shot an estimated \$350 million program to over \$1 billion. The overruns were successfully justified by the space agency, however, as necessities to meet the Apollo landing commitment."
  • The S-II stage "was always behind schedule, and required constant attention and additional funding to ensure completion by the deadline for a lunar landing."
  • "[t]he original NASA estimates had given a target date of 1967, but as the project became more crystallized agency leaders recommended not committing to such a strict deadline." If 1967 was possibly not achievable at a reasonable cost, then maybe even 1969 was a stretch.

However, it's also conceivable to me that Apollo would have cost more with an extended deadline--much of the work was parallelizable anyway, and a lack of urgency could have led to bureaucratic waste or higher safety demands.

So my questions are:

  • Could the cost of the Apollo program have been cut down if NASA had, say, a 1979 deadline rather than 1969, and by how much?
  • How would the later deadline affect individual segments of the cost-- background research, construction of facilities, development of the Saturn V and the Apollo spacecraft itself, and operations cost?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ While this is a thoughtful and well-written question, it might not be a good fit to Stack Exchange in this case because it probably will not have anything like a correct answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 11, 2019 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ My wild-ass guess is that it would have cost twice as much in total if given an additional decade. $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2019 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove You're not alone. The SLS development program (cost-plus, no deadlines) has proven that more time means more costs, not less $\endgroup$
    – Machavity
    Dec 11, 2019 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ There's a quote in Augustine's Laws to the effect that accelerating the schedule of an aerospace development program increases the cost...as does slowing it down. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2019 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove is spot-on. The program went fast by government standards, but it was not "rushed" but merely allowed to operate without funding delays. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2019 at 15:36


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