University of Leicester astrophysicist will have an enviable front row seat for the launch of Tim Peake's Soyuz spacecraft

Posted by ap507 at Dec 15, 2015 09:46 AM |
Professor Martin Barstow will watch the launch of Tim Peake's Soyuz spacecraft live from mission control

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 15 December 2015

University of Leicester space scientist Professor Martin Barstow will watch the launch of Tim Peake's Soyuz spacecraft live from mission control in Kazakhstan today (TUE).

The astrophysicist and President of the Royal Astronomical Society will have the privilege of being at the launch of the Principia mission, which takes place at 11.03 (GMT) from the Baikonur cosmodrome.

Former Army helicopter pilot Tim Peake, 43, will make space exploration history when he becomes the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS).

He will be joined by Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko aboard the space-bound Soyuz rocket as part of the Expedition 46/47 crew.

Watching the historic event from mission control will be Professor Barstow who has been keeping a diary of the trip.

He arrived in Kazakhstan on Saturday.

“Just arrived in Baikonur,” he wrote. “This is about as remote as you can get.

“Thousands of miles of steppe and no trees as far as the eye can see. The horizon is only limited by the curvature of the Earth.

“Saw several dozen camels on the way in from the airport, which must be the smallest international airport in the world. I have no idea if these are just wild or belong to some nomadic farmers.”

Professor Barstow is at the launch representing the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), of which he is president. He is Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester and Head of the College of Science and Engineering.

Joining him are a number of dignitaries from the UK, including the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport, former science minister Lord Willetts and CEO of the UK Space Agency Dave Parker.

“Today has been a really busy but fun day,” said Martin, writing about Sunday. “Had to get up for an early breakfast and departure from the Sputnik Hotel on a dark sub-zero morning for the roll-out of the Soyuz rocket and capsule that will take Tim and his fellow crew members into space.

“It was a perfect day with clear blue skies as the Sun rose at the same time as the rocket was moved into its vertical position on the launch pad. Still freezing though.

“So cold that my camera battery started to shut down and I had to warm it up in my pocket.”

Later that morning, Professor  Barstow got the opportunity to quiz Tim Peake about his mission.

He wrote: “We had the opportunity for a question and answer session with Tim.

“He is currently in quarantine, so we had to talk to him through a large glass window. He was cheerful and certainly seemed ready to go.

“I was able to ask him a couple of questions.

“One, for fun, following Chris Hadfield, was what musical instrument is he going to take with him?

“Answer, all the instruments are already on-board.

“Then I asked him about the space experiments for schools that were devised by the National Space Centre and which the University of Leicester tested and validated for flight.

“He talked about the schedule for these. One project will last the whole mission, while others will be done in a few hours .

"Tim will also run the London Marathon on a treadmill during his trip."

In the afternoon, Professor Barstow and the group had a tour of the town and were shown Cosmonaut Grove – a T-shaped path lined with trees on either side.

“It was particularly moving to see the rows of trees planted by the cosmonauts,” wrote Prof Barstow. “Traditionally, each one plants a tree before flight. The first, and largest, one is Yuri Gagarin’s.”

ENDS

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