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Former British Helicopter Pilot Set For Space Mission

posted 20 May 2013, 09:36 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 May 2013, 09:37 ]

A former helicopter pilot, 41-year-old Major Timothy Peake, will become the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station in 2015.

 (EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY) -  A 41-year-old former helicopter pilot was named Britain's first official astronaut on Monday (May 20).

Married father of two Major Tim Peake was chosen from more than 8,000 applicants to become one of six astronauts who will visit the International Space Station in 2015.

Speaking at a news conference at London's Science museum, Major Peake said the lead-up to lift off would be a very busy period.

"I truly am delighted. It is a huge surprise firstly, to be assigned. I'm actually delighted to be assigned and I really am looking forward to the challenge ahead,"

Peake said.

Major Peake said being selected for the expedition was the highpoint of an 18-year career in the aviation industry.

As well as serving as a helicopter pilot in the Army for many years, he became a test pilot after retiring from Army service in 2009.

In the same year, he was chosen as a European Space Agency astronaut and finished his initial training for the role in 2010.

He said that while scientific research was the main objective of the space mission, he was also hoping to have time for other pursuits.

"The International Space Station is a wonderful research laboratory and so scientific research is very important. Also, there might be the opportunity for a space walk, there might be the opportunity for robotic tasks with a robotic arm at the station that's used to capture visiting vehicles and hopefully there'll be a bit of time for relaxation, for photographing for example and that kind of thing," he said.

Britain's science minister said the mission would give a boost to British technology and business.

"But I hope that perhaps the most important single thing we get out of this will be a new generation of young people excited by science, technology and engineering. They talk in America still about the Apollo effect: the way in which so many people wanted to study science and technology as a result of the excitement of America'sApollo mission. I very much hope that Tim Peake - Major Tim as we call him - will also help promote a British resurgence and interest in Science and technology," said Minister David Willetts.

British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Major Peake at No 10 Downing street on Monday afternoon to congratulate him on being selected.

There has been renewed excitement internationally about space travel in recent weeks after a team from the ISS returned to earth earlier this month.

One member of the team, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, became a social media rock star with his zero-gravity version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and a continuous stream of commentary on Twitter about his life in orbit.

Major Peake said that while he would be tweeting from space and in the lead-up to lift-off, he was doubtful about matching the efforts of Commander Hadfield.

"I do play the guitar but very badly and I wouldn't inflict my singing on anybody," Peake said.

The astronauts are expecting to blast off into space from a launch site inKazakhstan in November 2015.