NEWS & PRESS
The Royal Astronomical Society offers its congratulations to Tim Peake, the first official UK ESA astronaut, after his successful launch into space today (15 December), en route to the International Space Station.
Tim was accompanied by Russian cosmonaut and mission commander Yuri Malenchenko, and US astronaut and flight engineer Timothy Kopra. The crew travelled into orbit in a Soyuz spacecraft, which took off at lunchtime today, from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The three space travellers will spend about six months on board the Space Station. During his stay on the orbiting outpost, Tim will be carrying out scientific research, including studies of how human beings are affected by long periods in microgravity, how organisms fare in the harsh space environment, and the feasibility of controlling a robotic rover from orbit. He will also use the mission to engage the public, including schoolchildren across the UK, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This flight is the culmination of a change in UK government policy that ended the bar on participation in human spaceflight. An influential RAS report in 2005 helped start this process, with a panel of leading scientists arguing that human beings in space could make a unique contribution to science, beyond the capabilities of robots alone.
Royal Astronomical Society President, Professor Martin Barstow, was at Baikonur for today’s launch.
He said: “It’s extraordinary to be here to see Tim start his journey into space. Along with many others, I have argued for a long time that the UK should be a full participant in the astronaut programmes of the European Space Agency, and it’s wonderful to finally see this happen.”
“Astronauts like Tim do incredible things. I know that his stay on the ISS will help inspire all of us, particularly our young people, to think about science and engineering, and how important they are for the world around us. But right now, it’s time to applaud Tim for his fantastic achievement – congratulations!”
Tim’s mission is named Principia, after the seminal work on gravitation and the laws of motion, by Sir Isaac Newton. The UK Space Agency website on the mission has a full description of its goals and a range of educational resources.
Previous British astronauts include Dr Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space, who travelled to the Mir space station in a privately sponsored initiative in 1991. NASA astronauts Michael Foale, Piers Sellers, Nicolas Patrick, and private astronaut Richard Garriott, were born with British or dual citizenship, and travelled to space as US or dual nationals. Mark Shuttleworth holds dual South African and British citizenship, and flew to the Space Station as a private astronaut in 2002.
Dr Robert Massey
Dr Sam Lindsay
Dr Morgan Hollis
Notes for editors
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3900 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
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