At £140 a mile, how does Elon Musk’s moon trip compare with other journeys?

February 28, 2017  —  By

It is a stratospheric sum but it does, at least, include the return journey. Elon Musk, the billionaire American transport visionary, has suggested that the first, so far unnamed, passengers on his SpaceX flight round the moon will pay about $70m (£56m).

Fly me to the moon: Elon Musk with a SpaceX Dragon V2 spacecraft. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Musk says the journey, tentatively scheduled for 2018 on an untested Falcon Heavy rocket, will cover up to 400,000 miles, although the Apollo 13 crew, on their trip to the moon in 1970, were a record 248,655 miles from Earth, so this figure seems modest if anything. Either way, 400,000 miles (about 16 times the circumference of Earth) for £56m is equal to about £140 a mile, which is easier to fathom. But how does it compare with terrestrial journeys?

Rail: The priciest rail ticket in the UK, the home of extortionate rail travel, is reportedly £501 for the 480-mile anytime return from Shanklin on the Isle of Wight to Buxton in Derbyshire (includes the ferry). That’s a little more than £1 a mile. The most expensive season ticket by distance, from Harlow Town in Essex to London Liverpool Street, is less than 40p a mile for a full-time worker.

Car: A Ferrari F12tdf has the joint worst fuel economy, according to US government figures, with as little as 12 miles a gallon. At current pump prices, that equates to about 45p a mile. Even adding depreciation, insurance – and the £340,000 cost of the car – it’s a lot cheaper than space.

Bus: Buses are cheap, right? Not if you take the No 47 from Lewisham Park in south-east London to Lewisham Hospital, 135 metres up the road. At £1.50 that equates to almost £18 a mile.

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Air: You would think air travel comes close, but the worst damage you can do on an airliner is a £55,000 return ticket from London to Melbourne (20,000 miles total) in Etihad’s “penthouse” suite. But that’s only £2.75 a mile.

Tube: The closest you can get to matching the cost of lunar travel is on the London Underground. The shortest Tube journey is the 350 metres, from Covent Garden to Leicester Square. A cash ticket costs £4.90, which equates to almost £23 a mile, about a sixth of the cost of a trip to the moon and back – and a lot quicker.

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