20210222_IBTimes_Mars_Cost Estimated life-cycle cost of Mars missions (inflation-adjusted) Photo: Statista/IBT

After a mammoth 293 million mile journey, NASA's Perseverance rover safely touched down safely on the surface of Mars. The six-wheeled rover landed inside the Jerezo Crater which is thought to have been huge lake billions of years ago. It will examine different types of rocks such as clays and carbonates to determine whether they contain traces of microbial life. The vehicle is equipped with a host of scientific instruments and even a helicopter drone called Ingenuity which is set to attempt to first powered flight on another planet.

Exploring the Red Planet is a costly undertaking. All previous missions to Mars have cost billions of dollars and Perseverance is no different. NASA expects to spend $2.7 billion on the project according to research from The Planetary Society, a figure that is expected to rise to $2.9 billion when inflation adjustments are included at the end of its lifespan. The spacecraft itself accounted for the lion's share of the funding at $2.2 billion while launch services for the Atlas V rocket came to $243 million. Two years of prime mission operations are expected to cost a further $200 million.

Despite that seemingly hefty price tag, Perseverance remains the 7th most expensive spacecraft in the history of NASA's planetary exploration program and the third most expensive Mars mission. It trails Viking 1 & 2 as well as the Curiosity rover which experienced cost growth after missing its original launch window. All four Mars projects remain among the most expensive missions ever undertaken by NASA.