How much did we really spend to go to the moon?

The actual cost of going to the Moon was a fraction of the commonly cited figure. The commonly cited figure is $25.4 billion. Yet the actual cost of the first landing (Apollo 11) did not exceed $500 million. What accounts for this difference? We estimate that the United States spent $20.6 billion preparing to land astronauts on the Moon. The cost of preparation far exceeded the expense of the first surface expedition.

A Science, Technology, and Space Policy Initiative