NASA’s figures indicate the cost of designing, building and flying the new Crew Exploration Vehicle — the spacecraft NASA is developing to supersede its aging shuttle fleet — to the moon would total $24 billion. This is significantly less than original estimates, but still quite expensive.

A companion spacecraft that could set down on the moon’s surface would cost $40 billion more.

Both figures assume the cost of a manned landing on the moon no later than 2020, and include the cost of developing rocket boosters to launch both ships and of managing the project.

Under current NASA plans, the Crew Exploration Vehicle would perform the same function as the 1960s Apollo Command Module space capsule. The lander would approximate the role filled by the Apollo Lunar Module. The cost projections do not account for the number of astronauts the craft would carry.

The costs of developing a new generation of robotic space probes, and robots capable of roaming the moon’s surface along with astronauts also were not included, and CRS said NASA has not yet provided cost estimates covering the development and operation of a manned mission to Mars. The costs of the CEV include Earth-orbiting versions that may be capable of sending crews to the International Space Station.

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