UK astronaut Tim Peake to head to space station in 2015

20 May 2013

Astronaut Tim Peake. Image via UK Space Agency

Tim Peake, a former helicopter pilot, is to become the first British astronaut to carry out a stint on the International Space Station, as the European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that he is to take part in a 2015 mission to the orbital outpost.

Peake will be the first UK astronaut in space for more than 20 years. Helen Sharman was the first Briton in space when she took part in a Russian scientific space mission known as Project Juno to the Mir space station in 1991.

A former helicopter pilot in the British Army Air Corps, Peake is set to blast off for the International Space Station in 2015 as part of Expedition 46/47. The flight is expected to take place in November 2015 from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The ESA confirmed today that Peake will be the first British citizen to live and work on the space station.

According to the UK Space Agency, Peake is one of six astronauts to have been picked for the 2015 mission out of 8,000 hopefuls.

Speaking at the Science Museum in London today, Peake expressed his excitement. “This is another important mission for Europe and in particular a wonderful opportunity for European science, industry and education to benefit from microgravity research,” he said.

Peake joined the European Astronaut Corps in 2009 and since then has been training to work on the space station.

After he graduated from basic astronaut training in November 2010, he continued training to increase his skills in weightlessness, including working in spacesuits.

In 2011, he took part in the ESA’s CAVES training, which aims to simulate space exploration during a week-long stay underground. The goal of such training is to mimic elements of spaceflight such as a lack of a day and night cycle and sensory deprivation.

Then, in 2012, Peake spent almost two weeks in an underwater base off the coast of Florida as part of NASA’s NEEMO mission. The course focused on asteroid exploration involving communication delays with ground control and working on a simulated asteroid.

David Willetts, the UK’s science and universities minister, said that Peake would become a “powerful” role model for young people.

The UK Space Agency now invests stg£240m per year in the ESA’s space programme.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic