How Much Would it Cost to Live on the Moon?

How Much Would it Cost to Live on the Moon?


Moon colonization is something that humans
have dreamt about for centuries, and it’s entirely possible, it’s just a matter of
cost. Bringing both humans and supplies the 234,000
miles (377,000 km) to the lunar surface costs an enormous amount of money and it’s difficult
to justify the cost to taxpayers. So how much would it cost? Well that’s a complicated question. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say we’re
doing a one year return mission with four astronauts using NASA technology. The first thing we’ll calculate is the cost
of getting there, and we’ll need a rocket. The Saturn V is the only rocket to have ever
existed that is powerful enough to take humans beyond low earth orbit. The problem is, all 15 of them are long retired. The Saturn V had a lunar payload capacity
of 90,000 pounds and a per launch cost of $189 million 1971 dollars or $1,123,000,000
2016 dollars which works out to $12,500 per pound transported to the moon. That may seem like a lot, but that would mean
that the average American, weighting 159 pounds (72 kg), could travel to the moon on technology
that existed when computers looked like this for a mere 2 million dollars. I know you know that that’s not right. There are two problems in that calculation. First off, that doesn’t include research
and development costs. A staggering 6.4 billion dollars was spent
to develop the Saturn V, which is 38 billion in 2016 dollars. So, considering that the Saturn V launched
13 times, if you include the R&D costs in the per-launch-cost, that works out to just
over $4 billion per launch or $44,000 per pound ($97,000 per kg.) But, to colonize the moon, you don’t just
need to get things to the moon, you need to get them on the moon. The budget allocated to develop and build
12 lunar landers back in the Apollo days was 18 billion 2016 dollars or 1.5 billion dollars
per lander. Once again, the lunar landers are no longer
in service so we’re including the R&D costs in our calculations. We need two landers to bring our four astronauts
to the moon and these have to be able to return so they need to land with both launch systems
and fuel. So that’s 1.5 billion per lander plus 4
billion per Saturn V launch so 11 billion total to carry our astronauts to the moon
and back. During the Apollo days, NASA also developed
a module called the LM Truck which was designed to deliver payloads to the surface of the
moon without a crew. Not only could these land 11,000 pounds (5,000
kg) of cargo, but a Saturn V rocket could launch with two of them. Using the truck, we can bring our per pound
cost of bringing cargo to the lunar surface down to a reasonable $318,000. Believe it or not, that’s a bargain. So, once our four astronauts get to the moon,
they need somewhere to live. The Center for Strategic and International
Studies in Washington, DC did a super detailed study on how much the development and construction
of a lunar base would cost. For our four person base, it would cost $20
billion to develop plus one of our $4 billion dollar launches equalling $24 billion. That’s a little steep. For a budget option, we could go with something
like Bigelow Airspace’s B330 spacecraft. These are essentially inflatable buildings
that work in space, and with a bit of modification they could conceivably be altered to work
on the surface of the moon. Bigelow Airspace is a commercial company,
so they’ve said that the B330 would rent out for $1.25 million per day or $465 million
for our one year mission. Considering that that’s the first time I’ve
said million when talking about a current day cost, that’s practically nothing…
until you consider the problem of getting the B330 to the moon. It weighs 43,000 pounds so it’d take four
LM Truck landings and two Saturn V launches for a total of $14.5 billion dollars. Well, that’s a little better than $24 billion. Let’s move on to food. For food, the best, but not simplest, solution
is to just grow it. One lunar greenhouse developed by the University
of Arizona could produce about 5.5 pounds of food per day. In order to have variety, NASA would probably
choose a few different crops that would do well on the moon. For our calculations, we’ll say the greenhouse
would be filled with 76% sweet potato, 16% tomato, and 10% strawberry. That’ll come out to 4.3 pounds of sweet
potato, .8 pounds of tomato, and .4 pounds of strawberries per day. Sweet potatoes have 389 calories per pound
or 1,675 calories per day per greenhouse. The tomatoes (81) and strawberries (151) will
make 65 and 60 calories per day per greenhouse respectively, so that’s 1,800 calories per
greenhouse per day total. Each of our four astronauts would need about
3,000 calories per day equalling 12,000 total per day so we’ll need 6.67 greenhouses and
since you can’t really bring two thirds of a greenhouse we’ll bring seven and have
surplus food, which is great for backup. Each lunar greenhouse will require .2 pounds
of fertilizer per day which adds up to 1.4 pounds of fertilizer per day for our seven
greenhouses and 510 pounds for the year. So for the greenhouse growing scheme we’ll
need to physically bring the greenhouses which each weigh a full metric ton or 2,200 pounds
which for the seven of them is 15,400 pounds or $4.9 billion dollars in transport costs,
plus another $162 million for fertilizer. The International Space Station is a really
good example of how water resources could be managed on the moon. Every bit used on the ISS is recycled. That includes water from condensation, showers,
sweat, and yes, urine. It of course gets filtered heavily, but the
water in astronauts food is the same that came from… you know… other stuff. NASA says that, without water recycling, 40,000
pounds of water would be needed to sustain four astronauts on the moon. That would cost 12.7 billion dollars to transport. With water recycling, we can bring that down
to 5,110 pounds of water for the year… except we have our greenhouse. Quite a bit of water is needed to grow the
plants—6920 pounds worth to be specific. So that’s 12,030 pounds of water for the
year which would cost $3.825 billion to bring. So next we need air… as in oxygen to breathe. A human at moderate activity levels needs
1.85 pounds of oxygen per day, so that means we’d need 7.4 pounds of oxygen per day for
our four astronauts, 2,701 pounds for the year, which would cost $860 million, but wait! Because of our greenhouses and the amazing
process of photosynthesis, we don’t! One lunar greenhouse produces .75 pounds of
oxygen per day so our seven create 5.25 pounds of oxygen each day, so we only need to bring
2.15 pounds of oxygen per day, or 785 pounds for the year, which will cost a mere $250
million. You may ask why we don’t use a oxygen scrubber,
and the simple answer is that it would cost quite a bit more to develop, build, and deliver
a scrubber capable of creating enough clean air for our crew of four. It’s just cheaper and less risky to bring
all the necessary oxygen there. In terms of power, it’s been proposed that
the best way to bring electricity to the moon is to literally bring a nuclear reactor. It’d be a little one, but it would carry
out fission reactions on the surface of the moon. NASA has only proposed, not developed, this
system, but they said that it could be developed, flight-tested, and delivered to the moon for
only $1.4 billion. Now we have everything we need. So to answer the question you came here for:
How much would it cost to live a year on the moon? I’ll just say before giving my answer that
these were all estimates and far from perfect. For example, it’s likely that if NASA ever
actually colonized the moon, it’d be decades in the future when commercial space companies
are far more developed and the cost of transport would be much less. Spaceflight Industries already sells cargo
space to lunar orbit for a mere $10 million per 220 pounds (100kg.) With prices that low, it may not be long until
living on the moon or other celestial bodies becomes commercially advantageous through
mining and tourism. The very day this video goes up, Elon Musk
is anticipated to announce Space X’s plans to get to mars, including a massive rocket
that will be able to carry as many as 220,000 pounds to Mars for less than any previous
rocket which could make martian colonization economically ffeasible. So after adding everything up, my conservative
estimate for one year with four astronauts on the moon comes out to $36 billion dollars. That’s $98 million dollars per day, $4.1
million per hour, $68,300 per minute, or $1,138 per second—more than an average family makes
in a year in Madagascar. Is it worth it—maybe. If we ever have to leave earth because of
the environmental change that we’ve started, that $36 billion dollars might be the best
investment we’ve ever made. After all, living on the Moon or Mars or some
other celestial body is a crucial first step in learning how to survive when earth is no
longer. I hope you enjoyed this Wendover Productions
video. Make sure to click subscribe to get all my
future videos right when they come out. I’ve noticed that whenever I say something
unique or clever about my twitter, like I did two weeks ago, loads more people follow
me, and so now that I’ve said this, my guess is that more people will follow me over at
my account, @WendoverPro. There’s also a fan moderated subreddit for
my channel which you can find at www.Reddit.com/r/WendoverProductions. I’d also like to give a quick thanks to
shutterstock.com for giving me a bunch of free footage to make this video better. Lastly, this video topic was suggested to
me by Twitter user @Tha_Boomer so big thanks to them. If you have an idea for a video, tweet it
at me and if I use it I’ll credit you and be eternally grateful. Thank you for watching, and I’ll see you
in two weeks for another Wendover Productions video.

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