5 things we bet you didn’t know about space travel, from Dara Ó Briain’s first children’s book

As TV presenter and comedian Dara Ó Briain launches his first book for children, he does more than observe the stars – he comes up with some pretty cosmic facts about astronauts, planets and space.

How many of these did you already know?

1. Belgium is the country most easily seen from space

Belgium in red from space at night (Thinkstock/PA)
For a long time, the European country most recognisable from space stations was Belgium, because Belgium had a law that every street had to be lit at night. So Belgium was a solid patchwork of light.

2. There’s a weird toilet tradition among Russian male astronaunts 

Russian astronauts finding somewhere to go (Thinkstock/PA)
The astronauts, all kitted out in their spacesuits, would have a widdle on the tyres of the bus which took them to the rocket launchpad, for good luck.

3. These surprising planet facts 

Planet-hopping (Thinkstock/PA)
It would take about eight months to travel to Mars on the fastest spaceship that currently exists. Venus is the hottest planet plus there’s a lot of acid rain and general horribleness. Mercury is hot on one side (430C on the side facing the sun) and freezing cold on the other (-180C) but Jupiter, which is further away from the sun, is much hotter – 464C at night, with an atmosphere of poisonous gases and acid rain. It’s insanely, stupidly, you-can’t-land-on-it hot.

The sun is 93 million miles away, and it only takes eight minutes for light to get from the Sun to the Earth. However, to get from the middle of the sun to its surface takes a million years.

4. Astronauts didn’t hang around on the first trip to the Moon

Astronauts only stay on the moon for a short time (Thinkstock/PA)
When astronauts first landed on the Moon, they only spent two hours there walking around. They got there, stood around, took photographs as proof and planted the flag. It was a very fast trip, just to prove they could do it.

5. Buzz Aldrin’s expenses claim was pretty funny 

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in Houston, Texas, 1969. (PA Archive/PA)
When Buzz Aldrin returned home from the Moon in 1969, he had to send in an expenses form for a journey he described as ‘Houston – Florida – Moon – Pacific Ocean – Texas’ and was given back 33 dollars in petrol money.

Beyond The Sky (Scholastic/PA)
Beyond The Sky by Dara Ó Briain is published by Scholastic. Available now.

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