UK astronaut, Major Tim Peake, a former helicopter pilot has made his maiden voyage to space this morning in a Russian aircraft, launched from Kazakhstan on a mission entitled ‘Principa’ after Newton’s work on gravity.
He will perform experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) that will increase understanding of the earth and help the next stages of human exploration of the solar system. Not only this but Peake has a secondary aim of carrying-out educational activities designed to get young people interested in science; inspiring children to think about a career in the sciences.
ISS is the most expensive object made by man, costing 70 billion pounds, which is 400km above earth, travelling at an incredible 18000 mph. A journey which previously took around two days to catch-up with the space station now only takes six hours.
Peake is the second British astronaut to enter space, the first being Helen Sharman, who spent a week on the Mir space station back in 1991. Her mission came about through a co-operative venture between the Soviet government and British business.
However, Peake is the first publicly funded astronaut to go into space, employed as a professional astronaut by the European Space Agency (Esa). The mission might never have happened, however, had then-science minister David Willetts not successfully argued for an end to the UK government’s longstanding opposition to human spaceflight. The change came about through negotiations in 2012 with officials from Esa.
The commander of the rocket is on his sixth flight and so Peake and the team are in very capable hands. What’s the biggest risk he faces? “I’m most concerned about the radiation dose I’ll receive – and there’s not much you can do about that,” Peake confides. “During my time on the space station I will receive the equivalent of 1,200 chest x-rays.”
Peake is an ambitious, motivated and passionate individual. He leaves behind his wife and two sons for 6 months whilst he undertakes his voyage. He was selected from 8500 applicants and over the last 6 years has undertaken 6000 hours of training which included missions underwater and up to 12 days solid in caves. He also had to learn Russian ahead of the mission. He really has had a brutal amount of training to realise his dream.
So what does it take?
– Candidates must pass physical and psychological tests
– Relocation during six years of training
– Resilience to cope with extreme temperatures
– Team work – especially in confined spaces
– A head for heights and a strong stomach
– Training: Spending hours underwater learning to spacewalk
– Learning Russian language
– In-post you’ll need to maintain your live-workspace
– Undertake 2 hours of physical exercise per day (in space)
– Undertake experiments, some on your own body
Perks include a fantastic view from the office and a fun culture, despite lack of ‘atmosphere’.
As you can see, Peake has put a huge amount into this and this isn’t for the feint hearted. We look forward to watching his journey over the next six months. He gave a huge thumbs up to camera at launch today at 11:03 and was waiting for the moment where he could see earth – a sight only 600 people have experienced.