News story

UK poised to wave astronaut Tim Peake on his journey to space

It is Tim Peake's last visit to the UK before his 15 December launch to the ISS and we are holding launch-day celebrations across the nation

As British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake makes his final stop in the UK before his upcoming launch to the ISS, the UK Space Agency is pleased to announce that it will hold 4 large launch-day events in the nation’s capitals and 16 smaller events at discovery and science centres across the country.

The announcement was made today by Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson at Tim Peake’s final pre-flight press briefing at the Science Museum in London – the main venue for the London launch-day event.

The celebratory launch events will give more than 10,000 members of the general public the chance to take part in a variety of science and outreach activities and will air live footage of Tim’s launch and docking.

Those who aren’t able to attend one of the official events can still get involved in this momentous day by watching the launch via ESA TV or by organising their own event with assistance from the UK Space Agency’s launch event pack, available for download on the Principia website.

The launch events will complement the £3 million programme of education and outreach activities being run by the UK Space Agency to harness the inspirational power of Tim’s mission, bring the excitement of space to classrooms and venues across the country and encourage interest in STEM subjects.

Speaking at the press conference, Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said:

Tim Peake’s launch in December will be a historic moment for the UK in space, and marks the culmination of our partnership with the International Space Station.

Our £80 million investment in the International Space Station programme supports pioneering research and will inspire Britain’s next generation of scientists and engineers to push the boundaries of science here on Earth.

Tim Peake added:

I feel privileged to be part of this incredible adventure in international cooperation. During my training in recent months I have come to learn that none of this would have been possible without the efforts of many. Although my job is a very visible one, I would like to pay a tribute to the many colleagues who are making my mission possible. These are now my new friends in many Member States of the European Space Agency, as well as in Canada, Japan, Russia and the US. I feel part of a big family working for science, for new technologies, and for the education of our younger generation.

Launch

Tim will launch on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 11:02 GMT on 15 December 2015. Soyuz separation is expected at 11:13 GMT, ISS rendezvous at 16:58 GMT and hatch opening at 18:33 GMT.

Once the crew dock with the ISS they have to check out their systems and prepare for hatch opening. There is a vestibule between the Soyuz hatch and the ISS that must be pressurised and the pressures equalised before the hatches can be opened.

Once the hatches are opened, the new crew are greeted by those already on board (in Tim’s case there will, unusually, be six crew members waiting to greet him as the departing crew are leaving after he arrives).

After the welcomes are over, there is a safety briefing that includes familiarisation with all the fire extinguishers, breathing apparatus and pressure gauges, for example. Once that is complete the crew assemble in the Service Module (Zvezda) for a family conference (this is scheduled for 18.38 GMT). The newly arrived crew get to speak to their friends and family back at the launch site complex – this is broadcast live.

It is also possible that Tim will undertake a few activities on the first day – including the ESA experiment Space Headaches which involves a daily questionnaire for the first week.

After that, the crew will wrap up their working day and say goodnight to mission control. Tim will then have chance to settle into his new home.

The next day Tim will get to work. The first couple of weeks on board the ISS have time built into the crew’s schedules for getting used to living and working in weightlessness, but the science will begin in earnest from day 1.