Humans have built some incredibly expensive things throughout history. From lavish skyscrapers to giant, energy producing dams, to technological marvels like the space shuttle. For most things, being “expensive” is an entirely relative term. However, when talking about the most expensive objects ever built, relativity goes out the window.
To create something as massive in scale as the Three Gorges Dam, or as technologically advanced as a space shuttle program requires the resources of an entire nation’s government. No one single citizen could foot the bill of those projects, and even the world’s biggest companies risk going bankrupt attempting them. The ultra-deep pockets of an entire nation are needed. This led one reader to ask, “What’s the most expensive thing ever built?”
The Most Expensive Object Ever Built
Most people agree that the most expensive object ever constructed is the International Space Station. At a cost of nearly $160 billion dollars (and rising, as new sections are added), very few things even come close.
Even among other pricey space ventures, it’s an expensive price tag. To put that number in perspective, just over 10 years ago NASA estimated the cost to send astronauts to Mars. Their rough estimates put the price of a human Mars mission in the ballpark of $40 billion US dollars.
Fortunately, the ISS’s hefty price tag is shared among the many participating countries which include Canada, the European Union, Japan, Russia and the US. No single country is shouldering the entirety of the project. It’s doubtful the ISS would even exist if not for the combined efforts of the cooperating countries. Since the ISS was constructed, it has had visitors from 15 different nations.
The ISS is larger than most people realize. You may be surprised to find out that it’s bigger than a 5 bedroom house. In fact, it’s so large, it can be seen from Earth with the naked eye, and is the largest artificial satellite that has ever orbited Earth.
The physical dimensions of the ISS are impressive. It’s 171 feet long, 240 feet wide and 90 feet high. There is a total of 15,000 cubic feet of space inside, and it weighs a whopping 412,000 pounds. It’s scheduled for completion in late 2011.
Now, if we could only get those same countries to pitch in on a joint manned Mars mission…
Bonus fact: There is a treadmill aboard the space station named after the TV personality Stephen Colbert.
John E. Catchpole (17 June 2008). The International Space Station: Building for the Future
Gary Kitmacher (2006). Reference Guide to the International Space Station. Canada: Apogee Books.