According to the New Space papers via Popular Science, we could set up a small lunar base for $10 billion or less, and we could do it by 2022.
Above: Artist concept of a moon colony. Credit NASA
NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay explains in the journal New Space:
“The reason all the previous plans for going back to the moon have failed is that they’re just way too expensive. The space program is living in a delusion of unlimited budgets, which traces back to Apollo.”
“My interest is not the Moon. To me the Moon is as dull as a ball of concrete. But we’re not going to have a research base on Mars until we can learn how to do it on the Moon first. The Moon provides a blueprint to Mars.”
NASA’s Alexandra Hall and NextGen Space’s Charles Miller in one of the papers, said:
“The US could lead a return of humans to the surface of the Moon within a period of 5-7 years from authority to proceed at an estimated total cost of about $10 billion (±30 percent).”
As Jurica Dujmovic, that’s cheaper than one US aircraft carrier.