Russian rockets take off
FORTUNE — After clocking 542 million miles in space over the past three decades, America’s space shuttles have been grounded. NASA, which still needs to send astronauts to the International Space Station but has a shrinking budget, has outsourced the job to Russia. U.S. astronauts will take their next trip on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in mid-November. —Anne VanderMey
By the numbers:
$1.5 billion: The average cost to U.S. taxpayers of each shuttle mission. The closing of the program has resulted in the loss of about 6,000 jobs at the Kennedy Space Center.
$47 million: The cost to send a U.S. astronaut on a Russian space flight. By mid-decade, NASA hopes to instead contract to companies like Boeing (BA) and PayPal founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
1: Number of commercial spacecraft that have orbited and safely returned to Earth. It was the capsule on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, launched last year.
Sources: Nasa, The University of Colorado at Boulder
This article is from the November 21, 2011 issue of Fortune.