Enlarge / An artist’s conception of an SLS launch. (credit: NASA)
After President George W.

Bush announced a plan to return to the Moon and move on to Mars in 2004, NASA began to consider how best to carry out that vision.

Although there were some promising private-sector rockets even then, administrator Michael Griffin set the agency on the course of building its own rockets and spacecraft.

Those programs have evolved into the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.

Since then, according to a new report published by the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New American Security, NASA has spent $19 billion on rockets, first on Ares I and V, and now on the SLS.

Additionally, the agency has spent $13.9 billion on the Orion spacecraft.

The agency hopes to finally fly its first crewed mission with the new vehicles in 2021.
If it does so, the report estimates the agency will have spent $43 billion before that first flight, essentially a reprise of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon.
These costs can then be compared to the total cost of the entire Apollo program, which featured six separate human landings on the Moon.

According to two separate estimates, the Apollo program cost between $100 billion and $110 billion in 2010 dollars.

Thus just the development effort for SLS and Orion, which includes none of the expenses related to in-space activities or landing anywhere, are already nearly half that of the Apollo program.
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