Major Tim Peake, an ESA astronaut is on his way to the ISS after a successful Soyuz rocket launch from Kazakhstan this morning.
British astronaut, two others and a number of power cables will reach the ISS around noon EST
The successful launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome was the 46th rocket launch to the International Space station. Following three booster stages the capsule is set to arrive at the ISS about six and half hours after the launch. Upon arrival, the trio and the capsule’s cargo will be forced to wait for about two hours after docking as the airlocks ready themselves for their arrival.
“Everything in sci-fi happens a million times faster than it really takes in real life,” says Daniel Huot, a spokesperson for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
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The mission is unique as it includes the first British astronaut to visit the ISS, Major Tim Peake. Peake is not the first Brit in space as a chemist visited the Mir Space Station but was not an ESA-trained astronaut.
British astronaut’s biography and mission
Major Tim Peake was born in Chichester in 1972 as, simply, Tim Peake. As an adult he joined the Army Air Corp where he finished as an instructor on Apache attack helicopters before leaving Army Air Corp. Peake became a test pilot following his departure from the AAC and in 2009 was selected over 8000 others by the European Space Agency (ESA) to attend astronaut school.
The mission is being called Principia after Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton’s seminal treatise on the law of gravity and his three laws of motion. Prinicipia Mathematica was first published in 1687 and is largely believed to be the greatest work in science.
The badge for the mission was designed by 13-year-old Troy Wood who won a BBC design contest with a rendering of the Soyuz rocket and Newton’s famous apple.
Peake, along with the other astronaut and cosmonauts, will be conducting a number of science experiments during his stay. As is the case with all missions to the ISS, Peake will also be tasked with “housekeeping”, the day to day need to keep the ISS ship-shape. On the 24th of April, 2016 in a unique twist on the mission, Peake will be running the London marathon on the ISS’ treadmill.
Peake is scheduled to make a return to Earth in early June but that is always subject to change as the ISS can support unplanned stays of longer duration if needed. While Peake may never return to space, that’s not what he’s thinking.
“I would like to go to Mars. I think it’s fascinating; it’s quite closely related to Earth in being one of the small, rocky planets that probably once had an atmosphere and once had oceans on it,” he recently told a student who asked where he would like to go next.
That, however, is quite unlikely as the ESA has no plans as of yet to make a Mars landing. But, the ESA is planning moon landings in the late 2020s and Peake may still be fit enough to be considered, I mean he runs space marathons after all
Okay, not technically the first British astronaut
That distinction belongs to chemist Helen Sharman who spent a week on the Russian Mir Space Station in 1991 where she performed numerous science experiments designed by school children. That mission, which was financed by a consortium of British Aerospace and others, barely happened as it was short of funds. It is rumored that former Soviet Premier Mickhail Gorbachev personally intervened to pony up the remaining money in order to fulfill Sharman’s dream.
Michel Foale, A NASA astronaut with dual U.S.-British citizenship, spent nearly 375 days in space on having been selected to crew six space shuttle missions. Foale was born in Louth and attended Queen’s college, Cambridge. He, like Sharman, visited the Mir Space station where he became the first “half-Brit” to go on a spacewalk. He also commanded the ISS for six months in 2003.