# Lunar sample return cost per kg - Apollo vs Luna vs Chang'e

Lunar samples (rocks, soil etc.) were returned by US Apollo program, Russian Luna and Chinese Chang'e. How does the cost per kg of the samples compare among these missions? Who got it the cheapest per kg?

• What's your metric for cost of the Apollo rocks? Total program cost / total mass of rocks? Is the cost of the Russian and Chinese space program publicly available? Mar 9, 2021 at 23:02
• @OrganicMarble Yes, that is easiest probably. Breaking cost down per mission would be nice too though. Mar 9, 2021 at 23:06
• Did the Soviet/Russian & Chinese missions obtain rock samples or just regolith (soil) & what was the mass collected by each?
– Fred
Mar 10, 2021 at 15:44
• @Fred I don't know these details. Edited the question to clarify I mean all sample types (rocks, soil etc.). Mar 10, 2021 at 21:53

Note: Using metric specified in OP's comment of total program cost / total mass of rocks

In 2019 US dollars \$175,000,000,000 / 382 kg = \$458,115,113 / kg

IMHO that's a ludicrous metric though, implying nothing else was gained.

Sources

• I totally agree with your comment about a ludicrous metric. It doesn't factor in the importance of the Genesis Rock or lunar orange soil, amongst other geological sample brought to Earth.
– Fred
Mar 10, 2021 at 0:18
• Also, it's much easier for a person to hold a rock in one's hand & directly look at it to get an idea of what the rock might be & how significant it could be than trying to interpret a photograph of a rock transmitted across thousands of kilometers of the cosmos. Even looking at photos of rocks on SE Earth Science it's sometimes difficult to work out what the rock might be & what mineralization it contains.
– Fred
Mar 10, 2021 at 3:23
• @Fred you have a valuable "take" on it that is not one that would have ocurred to me. I was thinking more along the lines of the valuable technology and processes that were developed. I could have written an answer arguing that the rocks were free, since returning them wasn't the point anyway. But hey, we're there, let's pick up some rocks. So between zero and 458 million dollars per kg. Mar 10, 2021 at 5:00
• Just to be clear: This number includes lots of things that didn't go to the moon... ten Saturn I... nine Saturn IB... various test articles... all of the missions prior to Apollo 11. So any comparison in the Soviet program also needs to include the equivalent development and earlier mission costs. And the Chinese program skipped much of this, by using Russian technology. Mar 10, 2021 at 8:17
• @Kozuch: It's not a criticism of this answer; it's a warning that future answers need comparable costs. If China ever lands Taikonauts on the moon, it's likely that they will claim the propaganda that they did it "cheaper" than Apollo. Of course, they will use the invalid comparison of their incremental mission cost to the total Apollo cost divided by 6. They will also ignore that the hard lessons were learned by Russian money and blood. Mar 10, 2021 at 14:55