When I met Major Tim Peake two years ago he was pretty unsure about his chances of getting to the International Space Station. While Britain contributes to the European Space Agency’s €4,000,000,000 budget we’ve never poured money into its manned spaceflight programme and the countries that do haven’t exactly been keen for us to get time in space for free.
Nevertheless a monumental lobbying effort on behalf of the UK Space Agency appears to have paid off. And the fact that there will be a Brit on board the Space Station for five months in 2015 is literally one of the most important things to happen to British space science for years.
Contrary to popular belief we Brits do ‘do space’. We have a growing small satellite industry, plans for a revolutionary launch system and our space industry contributes around £9billion to the UK economy. But nothing has the power to capture the general public like seeing someone like us floating about up there.
Someone suffering from #Britishastronautproblems, no tea bags till the next supply ship arrives, lending another astronaut some change for the space vending machine and being too awkward to ask for it back before, or having the entire plot of his favourite American drama spoiled by Twitter before someone can beam it up to space.
On a serious note though, if Tim Peake could be half as successful as the recently landed Commander Chris Hadfield he could inspire a whole generation of Brits to take up a science, or consider going into engineering or even just realise that the International Space Station exists, and people live there and it’s so big you can see it with your own eyes if you look in the right direction at the right time. I’ve heard he can play the guitar, so that’s a start.
Today is just the start to Tim’s journey, so do yourself a favour and follow him on Twitter. Live his journey from today’s press conference in the Science Museum; to the moment he climbs into a rocket in a freezing desert in the middle of Kazakhstan and long after he lands back on earth almost half a year later. He’s soon to become a member of a very select club, but as the first Brit to do it, he’s going to be taking us all with him.
The interview i did with Tim Peake two years ago (here if you’re on a mobile):