Uncle John knows pretty much everything—and for when he doesn’t know, he heads into the dark recesses of his massive research library, or puts one of his many associates on the case. So go ahead: in the comments below, ask Uncle John anything. (And if we answer your question sometime, we’ll send you a free book!) This week’s question comes from reader Jeremy C.
How much did Neil Armstrong get paid to walk on the moon?
When NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins landed on the moon in 1969, it was the biggest news story of the year – if not the biggest ever – and the public wanted to know as much as possible about Apollo 11, the moon, and the men who went there. A fun part of that were the nitty-gritty financials: How much did it really cost to go to the moon, and where did the money go?
In 1969, NASA reported that it had been allocated about $23.915 billion in tax money in the ten years since it had been founded with the express purpose of putting a man on the moon. A lot of that money went to establishing a new government department, and with it the bureaucracy, infrastructure, salaries for office workers, as well as funding for ground control, launch sites, rockets, research, spaceworthy equipment, and extensive training for all involved.
Of the three Apollo 11 astronauts, Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, earned the highest salary…but he didn’t get anything extra for going to the moon. Armstrong earned an annual salary of $27,401 in 1969. In today’s dollars, that’s $171,777—not bad at all, and at the very least, six times the average household income at the time. The other crew member to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, earned $18,622 a year, and lunar pilot Michael Collins (who had to stay in the ship) took home $17,147.
Armstrong was on the moon for a total of about two hours and 40 minutes. To break it down to an hourly rate, Armstrong made $32.92 for his moonwalk. The “lunar surface outfit,” or the spacesuit that he wore while doing so, cost $300,000—or the equivalent of 12 years of his salary.
All three astronauts, did, however, earn a little bit more. Since they were all technically away from their base for the day (really far away), each could claim an $8 a day “per diem.”