Major Timothy Peake, ESA's first UK Astronaut (Credits: UKSA.)

Major Timothy Peake, ESA’s first UK Astronaut (Credits: UKSA.)

Timothy Peake, the former British Army Air Corps helicopter test pilot, was officially announced to be the UK’s first astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS), in a press conference held in London on 20th May. It was revealed that Peake will fly to the ISS in 2015, and spend 6 months onboard the station as part of Expedition 46/47. Peake, 41, was selected to join ESA’s European Astronaut Corps in 2009, and will be the first Briton to join the corps, as well as being the first British citizen to live and work onboard the ISS. He and six others were selected from over 8000 applicants worldwide to join the European astronaut programme. “Since joining the European Astronaut Corps in 2009, I have been training to work on the Station and I am extremely grateful to the ground support teams who make it possible for us to push the boundaries of knowledge through human spaceflight and exploration.” said Peake at the Science Museum in London. “This is another important mission for Europe and in particular a wonderful opportunity for European science, industry and education to benefit from microgravity research.” Peake, who achieved the rank of Major in the Army Air Corps, has spend the last 3 years conducting his standard astronaut training which has involved neutral buoyancy training and a brief spell in NOAA’s NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) underwater laboratory, located in the Florida Keys. The next portion of Peake’s training will be more mission oriented and will involve familiarization with onboard science experiments, as well as on-station operations such as docking procedures and operation of the Soyuz spacecraft. Additionally, it is hoped that Peake will fly the flag for scientific outreach in general and for British science and engineering in particular. Speaking of Major Peake’s selection for ISS duty, UK Space Agency’s Chief Executive Dr. David Parker said, “Tim is also an inspirational role model for young people in the UK. As an ambassador for UK science and space-based careers, he is demonstrating the upper limits of what British kids of every age can aspire to.” Currently there have been six British-born astronauts and one non-British born UK citizen to have flown in space, although these have been with other space agencies, and most have been naturalized US citizens, which is a requirement to fly with NASA. Peake will be the first British born astronaut to fly with ESA, and will hopefully mark the beginning of a trend in future British manned spaceflight involvement. Until now, Britain has followed a non-manned spaceflight policy, and do not contribute to ESA’s manned spaceflight programs despite being ESA’s 5th largest contributor. That said, Britain does play an active role in the development of space technologies, with companies such as Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited, Virgin Galactic and Reaction Engines all having their roots in the UK. Additionally, ESA opened the doors to their first UK facility, ECSAT, the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications, in Oxford, on May 14th. Taking into consideration the growth of the UK space sector and the selection of Major Peak for ISS duties, it does appear to be a very exciting time to be involved in the British space industry. The British Interplanetary Society is the world’s oldest spaceflight advocacy group, and presumably they are very happy with the decision to finally send an Englishman to the ISS. Dave Southwood is a test pilot who has worked with Peake, and trained him at Empire Test Pilots School in the UK. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Southwood on a couple of occasions, and during our last meeting at Coventry University in 2012, I asked him what his thoughts were on Peake’s admission to the Astronaut Corps. Southwood simply replied that Peake was “the best man for the job”. Based on Peake’s experience, it certainly seems like he has the right stuff, as well as possessing the social media savvy to keep us all glued to our smartphones in the absence of Chris Hadfield. Although Peake has stated that he does enjoy playing guitar, he will not be covering any glam rock classics during his stint onboard ISS. We at Space Safety Magazine wish him all the best of British in his training, and we also promise to never use any “Ground Control to Major Tim” jokes either. Below, Tim Peake in preparation for ISS mission:

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About the author

Phillip Keane

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My background is in Aeronautical Engineering, I have worked as a Technical Author for Airbus Military and as a Development Technician at Rolls-Royce on Trent XWB project (R&D). Now studying Space Studies at ISU in Strasbourg, my interests are primarily in Space Suit Design and Hypersonic Propulsion. My hobbies are Bass Guitar and Holidays :D