Tim Peake

Tim Peake is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut of British nationality. He finished his 186-day Principia mission working on the International Space Station for Expedition 46/47 when he landed back on Earth 18 June 2016. Tim has a background as a test pilot and a British Army Air Corps officer.

Tim Peake's long-duration flight to the International Space Station was launched 15 December 2015. He was the first British ESA astronaut to visit the Space Station. His Principia mission was an eventful and busy six months in space. In the first month after his launch Tim conducted a spacewalk to repair the Station's power supply together with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra. Other highlights of his mission saw him drive a rover across a simulated Mars terrain from space and he helped dock two spacecraft.

Tim took part in numerous experiments for ESA and international partners. Highlights include using the Space Station airlock to study Tim’s lungs, monitoring his sleeping patterns to learn how humans adapt to life without normal daylight, and recording how many calories he consumed to prepare for missions further from Earth.

Tim returned to Earth on 18 June 2016.

What was the path that lead you to today?

My path to becoming an astronaut was an interesting one. In some respects it was much like the traditional route taken by early astronauts of the Apollo era - military aviator turned test pilot with a thirst for pushing boundaries. However, academically I was a late starter; leaving school at the age of nineteen, I finally caught up with a degree level education in my thirties. This gave me the right mix of operational experience and academic qualifications to be selected as an astronaut for the European Space Agency when I was 37. I guess it goes to show its never too late to achieve your goals!

Who inspired you to do what you do?

I have been inspired by many people at different stages in my life. In my early years, I looked up to the teachers and volunteers who dedicated their time to enable me to do the things I loved most, such as cub scouts, army cadets and Duke of Edinburgh awards. As a young army officer, I worked for some amazing commanding officers who taught me the value of good leadership, teamwork and taking responsibility. Perhaps my greatest inspiration though was not 'who' but 'what' - a love of science and technology and a passion for exploration.

What have been the biggest obstacles you have encountered?

There have been three events in my life where the chance of failure was really quite high: being selected as a military pilot, being selected as a test pilot and being selected as an astronaut. I approached each of these hurdles by preparing to the best of my ability - sheer hard work and determination - but also with an acceptance that you can't change who you are. Sometimes people are looking for things that are not taught in a classroom or found on Wikipedia. I think a mix of quiet confidence in your abilities but willingness to be yourself is a recipe for success in many walks of life.

Biggest triumphs?

Passing my Russian language exam! As an astronaut flying on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft you have to be able to speak and read Russian. I struggled all the way through my language course and so passing that particular exam was definitely a day to celebrate.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

I was once told by a school teacher that life is like a dustbin...you get out what you put in. That might sound a bit harsh but life has taught me that nothing ever falls on your plate. It comes at the price of hard work, which is why it's so important to do something you love doing. It doesn't feel quite so much like hard work when you're having fun!

What helps you get through each adventure and why?

First, you have to really believe in what you are doing and why. Never set out on a tough adventure unless your heart is fully in it, otherwise doubt will creep in when the going gets tough. I also draw strength from other people in my life, whether they are crew mates, friends or family, who have always been incredibly supportive of what I do.

What scares you and how do you deal with fear?

Fear is a great emotion! Without it we would not recognise danger nor feel the exhilaration when we are doing something dangerous. However, fear has to be controlled or else it could turn us into a useless, gibbering wreck. I don't have irrational fears (for example, I'm not scared of the dark...probably a good thing for an astronaut!) but put me in a truly dangerous situation and I'll have concerns just like any normal person. I deal with fear by trying to reduce the risk, which in turn reduces apprehension. Often, we can reduce the risk by training or gaining knowledge of a situation. Spacewalking is a great example of this. I studied for hours everything about how my spacesuit worked, what I would need to do if something went wrong and what routes I'd be following outside the space station. By the time I went out the hatch I felt completely comfortable with what I was doing. Sure, spacewalking is still a risky business and in fact we had a serious emergency during ours, but me and my crew mate knew exactly what to do and I was never afraid.

Why is getting outdoors so important in modern life?

Modern life has many temptations that stop us from putting on a jacket and getting outdoors. I'm a huge fan of technology but it's important to understand that we weren't designed to be stimulated by electronic devices for several hours a day. For me, fresh air and the outdoors is like sleep - I need it to reset the balance and to help me think clearly. When I think of the main events in my life that helped to develop my character and personality they have one thing in common - they were all outdoor activities.

Which adventure has been the most unforgettable and why?

When I was eighteen I spent three months on an expedition to Alaska with Operation Raleigh (now Raleigh International). This was one of the most powerful experiences in my life. I think it was the mixture of pure adventure, challenging circumstances and at the same time being surrounded by the most beautiful scenery and wildlife you could possibly imagine that made it so memorable.

Who has been an unsung hero in your life?

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless. In 1984, he conducted the first untethered spacewalk, venturing out into the vacuum of space from the payload bay of Space Shuttle Challenger with just a jet-pack (called a Manned Manoeuvring Unit) and a huge leap of faith in his equipment. Respect!

What's next for you?

Good question! The space sector is incredibly exciting right now with commercial companies becoming heavily involved human spaceflight and serious plans to return to the Moon and venture to Mars. At the same time, the International Space Station has been given a life extension until at least 2024, which means the possibility of a second mission for me and my European Space Agency colleagues.

Do you have a motto you live by?

Every person you meet knows something that you don't. I think one of the most important lessons in life is to listen, learn and respect other people.