British astronaut Major Tim Peake speaks ahead of space mission

With less than five weeks to go before he embarks on a six-month mission in space, Britain’s first official astronaut in 20 years has spoken about his fears, what he’ll miss on Earth, and how he is preparing for the International Space Station (ISS).

British astronaut Tim Peake poses beside spacesuits as he talks to UK media at the Science Museum, London, before being launched into space Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
British astronaut Tim Peake poses beside spacesuits as he talks to UK media at the Science Museum, London, before being launched into space Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Today (November 6) was the last day in the UK for British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Major Tim Peake - who attended Chichester High School for Boys and grew up in Westbourne.

He will take off on December 15 from Kazakhstan.

Speaking at a press conference in London’s Science Museum, Major Peake said: “During my training in recent months I have come to learn that none of this would have been possible without the efforts of many.

British astronaut Tim Peake as he talks to UK media at the Science Museum, London, before being launched into space Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

“Although my job is a very visible one, I would like to pay a tribute to the many colleagues who are making my mission possible.

“I feel part of a big family working for science, for new technologies, and for the education of our younger generation.”

Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said this was a ‘truly proud moment for the UK’.

“Tim Peake’s launch in December will be a historic moment for the UK in space, and marks the culmination of our partnership with the International Space Station,” he told the press conference.

“Our £80m investment in the ISS programme supports pioneering research and will inspire Britain’s next generation of scientists and engineers to push the boundaries of science here on Earth.”

Mr Johnson also spoke about a mission to Mercury in 2017 and to Jupiter in 2022, adding: “We are pushing forward the boundaries of our understanding.”

Major Peake will wave goodbye to his wife and two children two hours prior to the launch.

“We then run through a check list,” he said.

“The commander will have a choice of music to listen to before launch.

“At that point you’re completely focused on the mission.”

He added: “The opportunity to spacewalk is hugely exciting.

“The suit itself is like a mini space station.”

“I honestly have no fears at all.”

Asked if he was nervous about the mission, former Apache pilot Major Peake remained calm and collected, adding: “As a test pilot we perhaps expect more risks on a day-to-day basis.

“The only fear I have is of forgetting something. In terms of the mission I honestly do not have any fears at all.”

And he said he believes in other life forms in space.

“Yes, I do believe in life on other planets - but not little green men,” he joked.

“We are always searching for organic compounds and potential for life on other planets.”

Asked what he will miss when he is in space, Major Peake said ‘fresh air’.

“I love the outdoors,” he said.

“I like to put a pair of shoes on and run outdoors in the woods.

“I like doing activities with my family.

“I think not having fresh air for six months is what I will miss the most.”

Major Peake added: “Coming from a military background, a six-month deployment is not that long. I know it sounds like a long time but it’s something many military people are used to.

“I look forward to sharing the experience with my family when I return home.”

Major Peake said he is looking forward to a bacon sandwich and a Christmas pudding on board the ISS on Christmas morning.

“I have heard a Christmas pudding is making its way on board the space station so I will be enjoying that,” he said.

Major Tim Peake and the Principia Mission

Tim Peake was born on April 7, 1972, in Chichester and studied at Chichester High School for Boys, leaving to attend the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.

A former military helicopter test pilot, he was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in 2009 and was chosen in 2013 for a mission to the ISS.

On December 15, he will launch in a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, alongside Russian Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

More than 8,000 eligible applicants put themselves forward for the mission.

CEO of the UK Space Agency David Parker praised Tim’s ‘sense of presence’ and ‘calm and patient’ demeanour.

He told Major Peake: “From the UK space community you have our support, admiration and respect.”

Major Peake said he would be conducting some 265 experiments aboard the ISS, which is the size of a football field, weighing more than 400 metric tonnes.

These will include 23 experiments on his own body which will help to investigate cures for various illnesses and diseases including asthma, as well as better understanding the body’s ageing process.

Many of the experiments can only be carried out in micro-gravity.

“All of these experiments will have great benefits for people back on Earth,” he said.

“I will be a human guinea pig.”

Astronauts often describe the feeling of landing as feeling like a ‘car crash’ because their bones and muscles have been weakened in space - so Major Peake said he will be exercising two hours every day to retain his strength and fitness while in space.

He is due to return to Earth in May 2016.

An educational mission

The mission is not just a scientific exercise, but an educational one too - Major Peake will be involving school children across the country in his adventure.

“I am very excited about the education programme we have planned,” he said.

“We have activities planned for all age groups from four-year-olds up to graduate level.

“I really hope to share this mission with anybody who is keen to get involved.

“There is nothing to stop the school kids of Great Britain from being amongst the first men or women to step onto Mars.”

“One of my ambitions for the mission is to inspire the next generation.

“We do have an industry which needs that workforce, and needs an injection of graduates.”

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