Welcome home, Tim Peake: Leicester academics’ message to returning British astronaut

Posted by ap507 at Jun 16, 2016 09:45 AM |
Astronaut has raised the profile of UK space science

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 June 2016

  • Major Tim Peake will journey back to Earth on Saturday 18 June
  • He has been on the ISS for six months carrying out experiments on the effects of spaceflight on the human body and the Principia programme
  • Thousands of schoolchildren have also been able to participate in the Principia initiative

Space scientists from the University of Leicester have praised the successful completion of British astronaut Tim Peake’s six month mission aboard the International Space Station.

As the former British Army Air Corps officer prepares to return to Earth on Saturday (18 June), after 186 days in orbit, Professor Martin Barstow and Professor Mark Sims, of the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, commended the way the 44-year-old spaceman has raised the profile of UK space science.

The Leicester academics also congratulated him on his work on the Principia mission which involved working with schoolchildren on science projects.

Mark Sims, Professor in Astrobiology and Space Instrumentation, said: “Tim has been a great inspiration to many children and adults and has attracted wide attention and credit for his fantastic promotion and explanations of space and science.”

Tim launched from Kazakhstan alongside fellow crew members Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra, in December, last year.

Watching the launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome was Professor Barstow, who is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Strategic Science Projects and Director of the Leicester Institute of Space and Earth Observation.

He was invited by the European Space Agency (ESA) and attended in his former capacity as President of the Royal Astronomical Society. His year as President of the organisation ended in May, when he handed over the position to Professor John Zarnecki.

Now, Tim will board the Soyuz TMA-19M capsule and un-dock from the ISS at 6.30am BST on Saturday and begin the hazardous journey crammed into the tiny descent capsule with his two mission colleagues.

The three returning astronauts will hurtle towards the Earth at more than 17,000mph, using atmospheric friction, parachutes and retro-rockets to ensure a safe landing.

The capsule's heat shields will protect the men from the 1,650°C (3,000°F) temperatures caused by the friction of the air during entry, and they plan to touchdown on the remote savannah of the Kazakhstan Steppe at 10.15am BST.

Professor Barstow said: “Tim’s mission has been a tremendous success.

“He has been a great ambassador for the value of space research. In sharing it with a huge audience in the UK, he has raised the profile of UK space science and attracted large numbers of students into studying science at school and University.

“I hope very much that he gets another chance to fly, but until then it’s… welcome home, Tim!”

The primary purpose of the Principia mission was to conduct experiments in low gravity, such as looking at how conditions of space affect the growth of plants, using salad seeds.

As part of Principia Tim kept in contact with schoolchildren down here on Earth, as well as with people on Twitter and through video links. The educational mission engaged with more than one million youngsters.

Last month, Tim held a live link with schoolchildren, academics and visitors at the National Space Centre, in Exploration Drive. Now, he faces an extremely busy time as he prepares for the mission debrief and a maelstrom of media attention.

Professor Sims said: “He has a consummate professional attitude and always seems to be enjoying himself doing the job of a lifetime - as he describes it.

“After he returns Tim will be very busy, undergoing medical tests, debriefing, then helping future ESA astronauts train for their missions as well as the many events he will be attending promoting his Principia mission.

“I hope he has the time to enjoy his family and the simple things in life like the outdoors and rain, three things he said he really missed last week during his link to the Cheltenham Science Festival.”

Public interest in space is on the increase - National Space Centre visitor numbers have grown by 18% since Tim’s launch in December 2015. Tim performed experiments sent to the ISS by the National Space Academy, the films of which will be available to teachers for the start of the next academic year

  • People wanting to watch Tim’s return to Earth can head to the National Space Centre, where the team will be hosting live coverage, providing talks and workshops and highlighting Tim’s training, mission and life post flight.  

Ends

NOTE TO NEWSDESK

For interviews contact Professor Martin Barstow via mab@le.ac.uk

Professor Mark Sims on mrs@le.ac.uk

 

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