EDINBURGH’S trams is set to cost more than the space rocket used in the Moon landing.
And space experts said if the project was binned years ago then officials could already have put a Scot on Mars.
The Saturn V, the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, cost $255m in 1968 – in today’s money this works out at $1.6bn or £1bn.
It was the rocket used in the Apollo 11 mission that allowed Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon in 1969.
Yesterday (Sunday) it emerged the disastrous trams project – already with an “astronomical” price-tag of £776m – will have a further £250m added to the bill in interest payments.
Edinburgh bosses suggested the comparison was unfair and said their focus was having the trams opening on time in summer 2014.
But critics condemned transport bosses and said the true final figure will be as secret as “the moon’s backside”.
Edinburgh‘s tram project was supposed to cost about £375m with trams running by summer 2009.
A bitter dispute between Tie, the now-scrapped council tram development firm, and the tramline builders caused years of delays and massive cost increases.
More underground pipes and cables also had to be moved from below the route than expected.
Professor David Purdie, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “The Edinburgh trams now rival the Saturn V space vehicle in cost.
“I was in the US recently and was told that the true cost of the moon landings carried on the Saturn V will never be known.
“I’m certain that the totality of the tram debacle’s cost will be kept as dark as the moon’s back side.”
Craig Clark, the chief executive of Clyde Space which designs satellites and spacecraft system, said: “For less than £1bn today, Scotland could potentially send someone to Mars.”
The 81ft Saturn V rocket remains the largest and most powerful rocket to ever lift off successfully.
Its first ever flight was in December 1968 when it propelled a three-man crew into space as part of the Apollo 8 mission.
It became the first manned space craft to leave Earth, reach the moon, orbit it and return safely.
In 1969 it was used for the Apollo 11 mission – the first mission to ever see man walk on the surface of the moon.
Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh City Council’s transport convener, said: “The cost of the tram can be compared with anything but my priority remains to get the project completed in line with the revised timetable and schedule.
“As far as I know, Edinburgh has never been in the market for a space shuttle and I’m pretty sure it would cost an awful lot more to enter the space race.”