University of Leicester astrophysicist prepares to visit Kazakhstan to watch astronaut Tim Peake make British space exploration history

Posted by ap507 at Dec 09, 2015 09:38 AM |
Professor Martin Barstow will represent the Royal Astronomical Society during event

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 9 December 2015

University of Leicester space scientist Professor Martin Barstow will have a front row seat when British astronaut Tim Peake makes history by becoming the first Briton to visit the International Space Station.

Professor Barstow will fly out to mission control in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Friday, to represent the Royal Astronomical Society, of which he has been President since May 2014.

He will be accompanied by a handful of British dignitaries, such as the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport and CEO of the UK Space Agency Dave Parker.

The UK delegates will attend launch briefings, watch the roll out and launch preparation of the Soyuz rocket, have an opportunity to talk to the astronauts (although they will be in quarantine to avoid picking up infections), and see the lift off live on Tuesday 15 December, at 17:03 (11:03 GMT).

Professor Barstow, University Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Science and Engineering and Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science, will then follow the flight in mission control, through to the docking with the ISS, and hatch opening at 01:00.

Staying at the aptly named Sputnik Hotel, in Baikonur, Professor Barstow said: “This is a major milestone for human space exploration in the UK.

“Tim Peake is the first Briton to qualify as an ESA astronaut and the mission marks a major change in British space policy, as he joins in the EAS human space flight programme, a decision made by David Willetts when he was science minister.

“There have been Brits in space before, but none in an official capacity.

“Helen Sharman was on a privately funded mission and others have been flown by NASA as dual citizens or after taking US citizenship.

“So, I am very pleased that we have now joined this endeavour."

Sandhurst graduate Tim Peake, 43, is a former Major in the Army Air Corp and left in 2009 after 17 years of service.

He was a test pilot for Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland before enrolling on the European Space Agency (ESA) intensive astronaut basic training course in September 2009.

He graduated in November 2010, and will now be part of the Principia mission to the International Space Station alongside NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko.

Professor Barstow added: “The Principia mission sends the message that being an astronaut can now be an aspiration for anyone in the UK.

“Tim will be part of a crew undertaking science experiments on the ISS in physical conditions that cannot be reproduced on Earth.

“He will also carry out a programme of mini experiments for schools which will be filmed and used in classrooms around the country to increase interest in science and encourage more young people to take up science-related careers.”

Ends

To interview Professor Barstow (Wednesday and Thursday only) email mab@le.ac.uk

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