10 Things That Cost Much More Than Our Trip To Pluto

Just think of how many NASA missions this money could have bought...
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2015 12:46 PM CDT
10 Things That Cost More Than Our Trip To Pluto
This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft.   (NASA via AP)

Pluto and the New Horizons probe have been the stars of the week, and an odd sidebar from CBS Minnesota on the voyage has been going viral. Reporter Pat Kessler observed that the 9-plus-year voyage cost $720 million—which just so happens to be a good deal less than what was spent to build the new Vikings stadium: $1 billion. And that $720 million got us more than just the time in space. NASA itself explains that the funds were and will be spent over the period from 2001 to 2016 on everything from spacecraft development to data analysis to public outreach. Here are nine more things that cost more:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean movies, $1.04 billion: We've spent a lot to get Captain Jack Sparrow on the screen: It cost $140 million to make The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), $225 million to make Dead Man's Chest (2006), $300 million to make At World's End (2007), and $378.5 million for On Stranger Tides (2011). A fifth is coming in 2017.
  2. Cassini-Huygens mission, $3.68 billion: When it comes to space, New Horizons is a long way from the priciest. That honor goes to the Cassini-Huygens mission, per Forbes, which puts the cost of exploring the Saturn system at about five times that of the Pluto excursion. The European and Italian Space Agencies picked up some of the tab.
  3. Spam emails, $21.58 billion: InformationWeek shared the toll that spam took on America in 2004. The National Technology Readiness Survey estimated that the roughly 170 million adults who were online that year spent three minutes a day deleting spam, for a lost productivity cost in the tens of billions.
  4. Trump Taj Mahal, $1.1 billion: Upon the casino's April 1990 opening, the New York Times reported the Taj was the "most expensive casino ever built—a roll of the financial dice on a grand scale." Indeed. Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and again in 2014, the Washington Post reported. Carl Ichan last month got the OK to acquire the Taj from bankruptcy court.
  5. Hangovers, $160 billion-ish: The CDC in 2011 published a study (based on 2006 data) that put the cost of excessive alcohol consumption that year at $223.5 billion. Some 72% of that, or about $160 billion, "largely resulted from losses in workplace productivity." That Atlantic's take: that "suggests that the economic drag from hangovers is about $160 billion."
  6. Prescription drug ads, $4.7 billion: The Things That Cost More Than Space Exploration Tumblr points to a 2009 Congressional Budget Office report that found that during the year prior, drug manufacturers spent $20.5 billion on "promotional activities"; of that $4.7 billion was spent on direct-to-consumer ads.
  7. Super Bowl Monday, $820 million: The Orlando Sentinel in 2012 cited two figures relating to the money-suck that is the day after the Super Bowl, reporting that about 1.5 million call in sick and about three times that many show up late to work. That adds up to an estimated $820 million to $850 million in lost productivity.
  8. ATM fees, $8 billion: According to 2010 data, Americans completed about 2.1 billion fee-carrying ATM transactions that year, at an average cost of about $3.85, which totals just over $8 billion.
  9. U2 tickets, $736 million: Not bad for two years' work. The band kicked off its 360 world tour on June 30, 2009, and finished 110 shows later on July 30, 2011. Billboard reports that some 7,268,430 people attended, and the recorded gross was $736,137,344.
Bonus No. 11: We spent $1.2 billion on a supplement that may do no good; that story here. (More Pluto stories.)

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