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Interview: “The pressure suits me”
Survival training in a frozen Russian forest provided a last taste of fresh air for British astronaut Tim Peake (ESA) and his team mates the American Tim Kopra (NASA) and Russian Yuri Malenchenko (Roscosmos). They are set to go into orbit this Tuesday to re-crew the International Space Station (ISS).
Peake will be the first Briton on a space mission financed by the UK government, with the European Space Agency (ESA).
We asked Peake, at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, if he was at all nervous.
“The training has just prepared us for everything. There’ll be moments of apprehension, of course. I think the launch and the re-entry are two high-risk areas. And if I get the opportunity to do a spacewalk as well, that’s a very high risk activity.”
The three-man mission leaves from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Six hours from launch they will dock at the ISS.
Although Major Peake has 17 years’ service as an armed forces pilot, with 3,000 flying hours, he has had many new scientific tasks to learn, including in the depths of the earth, though he is already an enthusiastic cave explorer.
He is also voluntarily going to perform tests on his own body:
“I’m going to be doing loads of science experiments. There are 25 experiments just going to be done on my body alone. Mainly we’ll be looking into things like bone loss, muscle density loss, ocular health, changes in astronauts’ vision, changes in the immune system, the kind of things were the microgravity environment affects the human body. We’re looking at a number of different diseases where we can help, the microgravity environment can help to counter those diseases with drugs and vaccines. So there is some great medical research going on there that will have brilliant knock-on effects for people on earth.”
Peake follows Briton Helen Sharman into orbit. She went to the Mir space station in 1991, on a joint Soviet and British commercially-funded project.
Peake and the team plan to keep busy in space for almost six months.
The 43-year-old said: “I think the thing I’m most excited about is the view, without a doubt.”