Backstory: Space by the numbers

As the United Nations began celebrating World Space Week Wednesday, the US readied plans to revisit the moon, astronomers were finding new planets, and the record was set straight on Neil Armstrong's famous quote –marking one small word for him and one giant leap for grammarians . A statistical look at the final frontier.

Going lunar

Reigniting President Kennedy's dream, NASA wants to launch a new series of missions to the moon and lay the groundwork for future flights to Mars.

$12 billion is how much President Bush asked NASA to devote over five years to putting astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2020.

$25 billion was the price tag for the 12-year Apollo program – roughly $122 billion in 2006 dollars.

4 other spacefaring nations or groups of nations are also planning missions to the moon in the next 20 years: Japan, China, India, and the European Space Agency.

8 new Orion spacecraft (on the left in the artist rendition, above) will make up NASA's lunar fleet, replacing the shuttle program.

6 manned Apollo ships landed on the moon, starting with Apollo 11 in 1969 and ending with Apollo 17 in 1972.

Stationed among the stars

After putting International Space Station (ISS) construction on hold following the 2003 shuttle Columbia disaster, NASA is back to bolting and building the 16-nation outpost. The shuttle Discovery will blast off on another construction mission in December.

$100 billion is the current estimate needed to complete the station, up from the initial projection of $17 billion.

15,000 cubic feet is the amount of room the astronauts have inside the station – about the size of 15 mobile homes.

454,000 lbs. is the weight of the ISS – the equivalent of 100 mobile homes.

218 miles separates Earth from the ISS – about the distance from Boston to New York City – and it spins around Earth at 17,500 miles an hour.

1 "big screen" 17-inch TV adorns the inside of the ISS. Over the years, NASA has sent up several hundred DVDs for the crew's entertainment.

2 different menus float around the ISS, one for the Russians and another for the Americans. Each country sends up its own food. A favorite for the Americans: shrimp cocktail – freeze-dried, like everything, to order.

100 food choices and 50 beverages make up NASA's full menu.

Then there were eight

The fall of Pluto is still ricocheting through astronomy cliques and science classrooms around the world. This past August, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) stripped Pluto of its planetary title, reclassifying the distant ice ball as a "dwarf planet" (read: big asteroid).

3 criteria must now be fulfilled to be a planet in our solar system. A planet must (1) orbit the sun, (2) have enough gravity to pull itself into a round shape, and (3) be the major object in its orbit. That final point is the problem. Pluto's orbit crosses Neptune's.

1/151 the size of Earth, Pluto is smaller than the moon. It was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930.

102 ft. is how high Swedish high-jump gold medalist Stefan Holm might have reached had the 2004 Summer Olympics been held on Pluto. It's weaker gravity means people can leap 13.2 times higher than on Earth.

134340 is the new asteroid number assigned to Pluto. It joins more than 136,500 asteroids and comets in our solar system.

The planetary brotherhood

As technology improves, scientists are discovering more and more "worlds" and wonders.

201 planets outside of our solar system have been found by astronomers. Of these, 142 of them have been discovered in the past six years.

450 light-years away from Earth floats a planet bigger than any astronomers have ever found and less dense than they even thought possible. Discovered last month, HAT-P-1 is a ball of gas so light and fluffy that it would float on water.

21,000 light-years away is a planet 5.5 times the mass of Earth. Astronomers announced earlier this year that, of all the known planets outside our solar system, this is both the most distant planet and the closest in mass to Earth.

78,000 feet is the height of Mars' mountain Olympus Mons. Two and a half times taller than Mount Everest, it's the largest in the solar system.

4224 is the number of hours that pass between sunsets on Mercury. But there are only 88 days in a year (the time it takes to spin around the sun once).

65,403 miles per hour is the average speed that Earth spins around the sun.

238,857 miles is the average distance from Earth to the moon – the equivalent of circling the equator 9.6 times.

9,900 degrees F. is the surface temperature of the sun.

867.2 degrees F. is the mean surface temperature of Venus, the hottest of the eight planets.

–373.27 degrees F. is the mean temperature on Neptune, the coldest of the fraternal eight.

50 billion galaxies made up the universe, at last count.

Spacey news

2 million Virgin Atlantic frequent-flyer miles can be redeemed for a 75-mile trip into outer space. British businessman Alan Watts traded his miles in last month for one of the first 1,000 reservations with Virgin Galactic, which plans to launch a space tourism program by 2009.

1 small change for Neil Armstrong, one giant revision for lunar lexicography. Computer analysis of the staticky 1969 broadcast released this week shows there was a long-lost "a" in Armstrong's famous first words on the Moon. He actually said: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Sources: The Associated Press, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Geographic, NASA spokesman Grey Hautaluoma, Space.com, Boeing, the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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