3
$\begingroup$

The lunar rover, carried by Apollo 15 to moon, cost 60 million USD, in 1971. From a layman's view, it was basically a set of 4 motorized wheels, perhaps very lightweight and with longer battery life and with sophisticated communication equipment. That is far more than the costliest four wheeler even in 2021. What was so special about it (other than the honor of traveling on the Moon), that it was so costly?

$\endgroup$
10
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The total cost to develop, design, and make four space-qualified lunar rovers, plus some non-space-qualified rovers used for training and testing, plus mods to the lunar lander so it could carry the rover to the surface of the Moon was 38 million 1971 dollars. That's about 260 million 2021 dollars. That's amazingly cheap. $\endgroup$ Oct 16 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ They had to develop 4 electric vehicles that would work in incredible extremes of temperature at a time when battery technology was far less advanced, making it lightweight and compact enough to fold into the size of a large suitcase. 60 million doesn't sound that bad to me. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Oct 16 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD It was 38 million, not 60. Either way, it was incredibly cheap. Even when accounting for inflation it was incredibly cheap. (A factor of about seven is needed to convert 1970 dollars to current dollars.) $\endgroup$ Oct 16 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Think about it this way. Counting inflation, they spent as much on the whole Apollo Lunar rover program, as Ferrari spent just in 2020, on just F1 racing. Or how about this: The whole rover program cost 1/2 as much as one Airbus A380 airliner. $\endgroup$ Oct 16 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan Yet another way to look at it: Americans spend about 150 times as much per year on pizza compared to the inflation-adjusted cost of the entire lunar rover project. The lunar rover project was ridiculously cheap. $\endgroup$ Oct 16 at 20:02
10
$\begingroup$

Even if the number you quote is correct, I believe that is the cost of the entire rover program.

That not only includes the cost of the 4 rovers built, but the cost to develop and test them, plus all the extra versions that were needed. One doesn't just make a rover and say here you are. It has to be integrated into the rest of the systems. They would have had versions that were used to train the astronauts. One would have been used to test the deployment system. Another would have been used to make sure everything fit in the launch system. One would have been used to test all the electrical systems. They may have used another to test in the vacuum chamber, or the shaker table to make sure it survived the launch and the flight to the moon.

Most of the cost would not have gone into parts and assembly. It would have been all the development and testing costs.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 It had to fold up into one of the quad bays on the LM, fit the weight restrictions and the designers had to literally re-invent the wheel - ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20100000019 $\endgroup$ Oct 16 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @mhoran: Thanks for your response. In principle I do understand that this cost (as per source: history.nasa.gov/SP-4219/Chapter1) would have included its development cost. May be one or two test vehicles also. But then can the same vehicle not be used for testing different requirements such as testing electrical, communication, mechanical drive, etc. etc? Of course, what has been spent, is gone. Many times I feel that in doing something for the first time, we tend to "OVER DO" things. Perhaps failure leads to questioning competence. Hence the over-doing... $\endgroup$
    – Niranjan
    Oct 18 at 3:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.