Helena Pozniak
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Britain's first official astronaut is set for lift off

The Telegraph
From spacewalking underwater to living 260 miles above earth and travelling at speeds of 17,000mph, it’s all go for Tim Peake – the UK’s very first astronaut


“I really enjoy the neutral buoyancy of spacewalk training, but I was surprised how physically and mentally challenging it is – you certainly sleep well after six hours in the suit,” says the UK’s first ‘official astronaut’, Tim Peake, following his training at Houston in Texas.

He has been practising spacewalking underwater – the closest you can get on earth to mimicking an environment with no “up” or “down” – to prepare him for his launch into space on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in November 2015. He will spend six months conducting experiments in material and life science at the International Space Station, effectively using his body as a “test bed”.

The Soyuz is designed to accommodate his new height as, after six months, microgravity will have made him around two inches taller. “Our weight on earth compresses our spines,” explains Peake.

A former Major and helicopter pilot in the British Army Air Corps for nearly 18 years, he beat around 10,000 European contenders in a year-long search for the right person to join the European Astronaut Corps. Around half of his competitors failed the exacting medical requirements, mostly because their eyes or hearts weren’t in optimum condition. “Space is no place to get ill,” he says.

Although the selection process was intense and the training has been relentless, Peake is lucky – astronauts can wait a decade or more before they go into space, and some never fly at all.

He is now bound for Star City near Moscow for training on the Soyuz; he will also travel to Japan, Canada and the US.

Before his space rocket take-off, he has to prepare for every aspect of living 260 miles above earth and travelling at 17,000mph. He has already sampled astronaut food; in fact, that’s the least of his worries. “Learning Russian has been a struggle – but thankfully I’m at a stage now where I can laugh about it,” he says. And one of his charges on board the space station will be capturing visiting vehicles with a robotic arm – “a highly intensive task”.

The high point of his career, he adds, would be a spacewalk during his mission. “If the opportunity arises, a spacewalk would be incredible. But I am also looking forward to simply living in space for six months – with the view down on earth, the aurora borealis and night-time thunderstorms.”

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