Economic Progress

Which countries spend the most on space exploration?

Emma Luxton
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Economic Progress

The US has the biggest budget for space exploration by far, spending over six times more than China, according to OECD figures for 2013.

From the first moon landing to the International Space Station, the US government agency NASA has been leading space exploration since its creation in 1958.

1601B10-top space budgets 2013 USA China Russia

US spending on space-related research saw a dramatic increase during the height of the space race with Russia, from 0.1% of GDP in 1958 to more than 4.4% in 1966. This increase coincided with the global race to reach the moon when US President John F. Kennedy promised that the US would land men on the moon before 1970.

Following Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in 1969, US spending on space exploration dropped back, falling to below 1% in 1975. As interest in space decreased over the years, it became less of a government spending priority, and by 2013 only 0.23% of GDP went on space.

1601B10-space budget percentage GDP Russia USA OECD


Although OECD countries account for the largest proportion of the global space budget, BRIC economies increased their spending on space exploration between 2008 and 2013. The Russian space budget grew 144% during this period – an increase which has seen Russia take the top spot for spending on space budget as a share of GDP.

The Russian government has increased funding for the Russian Federal Space Agency in an effort to modernize and expand infrastructure and capabilities by 2020. However, the traditional rivalry between the US and Russia over space exploration may be declining. Both countries have agreed plans to build a new space station following the retirement of the International Space Station in 2024.

Some of these figures may seem mind-blowing, especially at a time of tighter budgets. But as a 2015 Forum report showed, space spending has directly contributed to several useful spin-offs down here on Earth, including cancer-detecting technology.

Have you read?
Why 2015 was a major year for space exploration
Why do stars collapse?
Is there a better way to get to space?

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Author: Emma Luxton is a Junior Content Producer at Formative Content. 

Image: The United States is pictured during an early morning flyover from the International Space Station. REUTERS/NASA/Handout. 

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