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How much does it cost to return to the moon?

Netease Technology News on December 11, according to foreign media reports, NASA has always been committed to the development of a huge launch vehicle SLS, with a view to sending astronauts back to the moon. After 10 years of hard work, the rocket was finally assembled and ready for testing.

NASA Director Jim Bridenstine revealed his latest estimate of the cost of each launch of SLS: the Bulk ordering of $ 800 million (5.6 billion yuan) per rocket if NASA buys only one The launch mission will cost $ 1.6 billion (11.3 billion yuan).

Bridenstine pointed out that this is only an estimate because NASA “needs to sit down with its main contractor, Boeing, to negotiate the best solution to get the best combination of a number of rockets and cost per rocket.” Boeing declined to comment on these negotiations and referred the issue back to NASA. Netease Technology News

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SLS is expected to be the most powerful rocket ever, capable of generating 20% ​​more thrust than the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo mission 50 years ago. But the project is full of controversy because Boeing spends much more time and money building rockets than originally promised.

Critics have long pointed out that commercial rockets made by SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) are much cheaper than SLS and can also perform many tasks for SLS. For example, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket costs about $ 90 million per launch and provides only slightly less thrust than SLS. ULA’s Rocket Delta IV Heavy costs about $ 300 million.

But Bridenstine and several federal lawmakers have steadfastly defended the development of the SLS. They point out that these commercial rockets are not as powerful as SLS and are currently not qualified for manned flight. SLS can carry the manned spacecraft Orion and a large amount of cargo to the moon. Therefore, the SLS is crucial to the United States’ goal of returning to the moon by 2024.

Laura Forczyk, founder of the aerospace industry analysis company Astralytical, pointed out that the reason why Bridenstein shared the estimated cost of a single launch of SLS may be to ease the impact of lawmakers on seeing previous White House estimates The White House estimates that the cost of a single launch of SLS may exceed $ 2 billion.

But Fuchke believes that it is unrealistic for NASA to buy SLS rockets for $ 800 million. “Where did NASA get the money to order SLS in bulk for 10 to 12 launches? NASA is now working to raise funds to achieve its return to the moon,” she said.

She acknowledged: ” Saturn V was launched 13 times in the last century, but at the time we were in the Cold War. Due to geopolitical motivations, NASA’s budget was much higher. Today Congress does not provide NASA with $ 8 billion to $ 9.6 billion for batches. Willingness to buy rockets. “

Bridenstine did not say whether NASA actually needs 10 or more SLS rockets. The return to the moon program will require three rockets, two of which will be used for test flights and one for the moon landing in 2024, “more may be needed afterward.”

NASA also often talks about the usefulness of SLS for solar system exploration missions. But critics say these tasks can be accomplished with cheaper commercial rockets. For example, Europa Clipper will study Jupiter’s moons and plans to launch them via SLS rockets in 2025. But the White House has asked Congress to switch to commercial rockets, saying it could save $ 1.5 billion in costs.

Boeing signed a contract to build the main components of SLS in 2012, and the rocket is expected to begin flying in December 2017.  Now more than two years behind schedule, the US Congress has allocated $ 14.6 billion to develop and build the first two rockets, far exceeding the original forecast. Earlier this year, Bridenstine publicly threatened to abandon the SLS rocket, after which Boeing promised to get the project back on track

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Muhammad Zeeshan

Freelancer and a blogger with a focus on technology.

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