In a little over three weeks Tim Peake, 43, will leave Earth for a six month stint on the International Space Station. Before Peake makes it back to Earth he will have lapped the planet more than 2,700 times.
Peake will travel to Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to board Soyuz TMA-19M, a Russian designed rocket. He will be joined by two other astronauts – one from Nasa and the other from Russia.
More than 8,000 people applied for Peake’s job when it was first advertised by the European Space Agency in 2008, but at the time the UK was not interested in human spaceflight and a lack of funding meant that there were no British astronauts.
Peake joined the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps in 2009 and was selected as an astronaut shortly after the British government increased its funding for the European Space Agency. Britain now contributes £240m a year, making the UK the fourth largest contributor after Italy, France and Germany.
To prepare for his mission Peake has trained in Japan, Russia, Canada and the US. This training included living underground in a Sardinian cave system for a week and living in an underwater habitat in Florida.
Peake has been trained as an engineer and has undergone a number of simulator experiences. During the mission, named Principia after the book by Isaac Newton, Peake hopes to do a spacewalk. To train for spacewalks Peake trained in diving gear in a huge swimming pool and took part in a virtual reality learning environment which simulates what it is like to work outside the International Space Station.
Whilst Peake will be the first official British astronaut he is not the first Brit in space. Helen Sharman took a privately-funded trip to the Mir space station in 1991; and others such as Michael Foale, Nicholas Patrick and Piers Sellers, had, or took US citizenship in order to qualify as Nasa astronauts.