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BBC – Future – Apollo in 50 issues: The cost



25 billion: total cost of the Apollo program, in US dollars

The president who promised to take a man to the moon by the end of the decade was not enthusiastic about space exploration.

"I'm not so interested in space," John F. Kennedy told NASA chief James Webb at a private meeting at the White House in 1962. "I think it's good, I think we should know," We're ready to spend Reasonable amounts of money, but we're talking about these fantastic expenses that are ruining our budget. "

The conversation, published by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, reveals the true motivations of the President: to defeat the Soviet Union.

"In my opinion, doing it at this time or in this way, it's because we hope to overcome them," he says, "and show that starting back, as we did for a couple of years, for God's sake, we passed them."

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But the cost of winning the space race would be huge.

The total estimated cost of the Apollo program was around $ 25 billion, equivalent to $ 175 billion (£ 140 billion) today. In 1965, Nasa's financing reached a maximum of around 5% of government spending, nowadays it is one tenth of that.

Those billions paid for rockets, spacecraft, computers, ground control and the 400,000 or more people they needed to land only 12 men on the Moon.

34: Percentage of public approval for lunar missions in 1967

Were the $ 25 billion spent spent putting men on the moon's money well spent? Not according to the American taxpayers in 1967.

Survey data from the time, compiled by Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and published in the journal Space Policy, suggest that the US public was not convinced that space was a national priority .

Even in 1961, in the face of fears of Soviet domination in space, people were, at best, ambivalent about the funding of Apollo.

Surveys conducted in June of that year show a fair division between supporters of government funding "human journeys to the moon" and those who are against. Following the Apollo fire on January 1, 1967 in which three astronauts died on the launch pad, more than half of the respondents opposed the missions.

Only immediately after the landing of the Moon on Apollo 11 in 1969, the project gained widespread support. Nine months later, after the disaster of Apollo 13, the support for the missions vanishes again.

It is a myth that the Apollo missions were a great national company with universal support.

When Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt walk on the Moon during Apollo 17, almost 60% of the American public believes that the country is spending too much on space. For this moment, however, space budgets have already been cut and more lunar missions canceled.

It is a myth that the Apollo missions were a great national company with universal support. If the survey is created, most Americans would rather have seen the money spent elsewhere.

100,000: Cost of an Apollo space suit, in US dollars.

Space suits designed to walk on the Moon had to be strong, strong and supportive. It is not surprising, then, that NASA commissioned them from a manufacturer of fasteners, the International Latex Corporation.

Each made-to-measure suit was made up of multiple layers of plastic fibers, rubber and metal wires, all covered with Teflon coated fabrics, sewn by hand by a team of seamstresses.

The Apollo suit had a separate backpack that contained life support systems, effectively converting it into an autonomous spaceship. With flexible joints to give astronauts a good range of motion, it was a significant advance over previous designs developed for NASA's Gemini program.

"The Gemini suit was really a problem and, without a doubt, the real limitation of what we could do outside the spacecraft, "says Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart.

During a spacewalk in March 1969, Schweikart became the first person to test the new equipment, leaving his Apollo spacecraft in orbit around the Earth.

My friends would have to run around the surface of the Moon and could not drag a heavy umbilical cord through the lunar surface – Rusty Schweickart

"It really made me independent of the spacecraft, I had no umbilical cord with the command service module, I just had a strap to keep me from drifting," he says.

"My friends would have to run around the surface of the Moon and could not drag a heavy umbilical cord through the lunar surface, so we had to have that independent backpack."

For later Apollo missions, the space suit was updated again to improve flexibility, allowing astronauts to sit on the lunar rover.

388m: construction cost of the lunar landing modules, in US dollars.

Before Apollo 11 was launched on the Moon, President Richard Nixon prepared two speeches: one for success and another in case the astronauts were stranded.

"Fate has ordered that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace," the speech said. "These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery, but they also know that there is hope for humanity in their sacrifice."

No one had built a vehicle designed to take two people safely to another world and, more importantly, take them home again. The lunar module, with its fragile frame, thin walls and thin legs, could only function in space.

The landing module was made up of two sections or stages, a descent stage with the landing platforms and an ascent stage with a single engine to take the astronauts back to the mother ship in lunar orbit. But if the only climb engine failed, there was no way to get the crew home.

If it did not work, you're done – Gerry Griffin

"It was one of the few specific failures we had in the entire Apollo program," says Flight Director Gerry Griffin. "The lunar module engine had to work (there was only one engine bell and one mixer where all the propellant was put together) .If it did not work, you would have finished."

NASA signed a contract with Grumman Corporation to build the landing modules for a total cost of $ 388 million. But the construction was full of delays and the first unmanned launch was not until January 1968.

Within a year, Apollo 9 astronauts Jim McDivitt and Rusty Schweikart tested the spacecraft in Earth orbit. Then, during Apollo 10, Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan took the lander to a distance of 47,000 feet (14.2 km) from the lunar surface.

Upon returning to the command module, they got into serious trouble.

Turning on a series of switches to align the navigation system, Cernan and Stafford prepared to separate the upper stage of the descent stage. But one of the switches was in the wrong position and when they started the engine, the spacecraft spun out of control.

"Son of a bitch!" Cernan shouted.

"I saw the lunar horizon pass in different directions, eight times in 15 seconds," he tells me later. "That's scary, yes, if you have time to be scared but I did not have time to be scared".

Fortunately, Stafford assumed manual control and stabilized the spacecraft. The engineers later calculated that two more seconds would have crashed into the Moon.

"We discovered that we did not have a hardware problem, we had a problem with people," says Cernan. "No matter how good we thought we were, no matter how many times we rehearsed it, you can be wrong if you're not careful."

Despite almost dying, Cernan still finds that he has to apologize to the American public for his language.

33.31: Travel expenses claimed by Aldrin for the trip to the Moon, in US dollars

When they returned to Earth, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins were the most famous people on the planet. But that was not reflected in his pay.

Depending on their age, Apollo astronauts earned between $ 17,000 and $ 20,000 a year. It is equivalent to $ 120,000 (£ 96,200) today and comparable to the salaries of 21st century astronauts. The television presenters covering the mission would have won much more.

There was no dangerous money to go to the Moon, but the teams could claim travel expenses. Aldrin, for example, filed a $ 33.31 claim to cover his trip from his home to the nearby Manned Navigation Center in Houston … through Florida, the Moon and Hawaii.

Buzz Aldrin has announced everything from insurance, cars and porridge.

In addition to this, the astronauts also had a portion of the revenue from a NASA agreement with Life magazine.

When they left the space program, many astronauts were incorporated by the industry into executive positions with high salaries. Others became experts in television or won money through personal appearances and endorsements.

After suffering a cold during his mission at Apollo 7, Wally Schirra became the face of a variety of decongestant tablets. Buzz Aldrin has announced everything from insurance, cars and porridge. Your income today is probably considerably more than in 1969.

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