Eight Questions for Tim Peake
We host an in-flight call with Tim Peake and celebrate the anniversary of the first Briton in space.
We just made a very special phone call… to space!
On 17 May, the National Space Centre rang British astronaut Tim Peake on board the International Space Station, as part of a special event celebrating the past, present, and future of human space flight organised by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and the National Space Academy.
We had a fantastic 15-minute call with Tim where we discussed everything from space debris hitting the Space Station to Tim’s thoughts heading into his final month in space.
Tim answered eight of our questions, which came from a range of students, members of the public, and even a very keen four-year-old!
Q&A with Tim
1. “Following the chip in the Cupola, have you personally seen any space debris and how problematic is it?” – Thomas from Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen
Tim Peake – “I should have pointed out, that chip in the Cupola window was there when I first arrived! Having said that, the Space Station does get struck by micrometeorites, and they can’t be tracked, they’re too small to be tracked. But we have lots of mechanisms on the space station to protect us from those small pieces of debris. We don’t actually see any of the debris up here, and actually when I look out the Cupola window, it’s very hard even to see other satellites … so in terms of being able to visibly see debris, no we can’t, but we can see the impact that debris has had on the Space Station.”
2. “Which has been your favourite experiment and why?” – Adam from Castell Alun High School in Flintshire
Tim Peake – “That’s a tough one for me to answer because five months into the mission we’re well over 200 experiments down for Expedition 46/47. Some of the more exciting ones have been the ones that we have a lot of practical interest in as well, for example the Airway Monitoring experiment. … Some ground breaking techniques there to help people on Earth who suffer from asthma. For me that was a very exciting experiment to be involved in.
Also things such as our flame combustion experiments. It’s fascinating to see how flames form in microgravity.”
3. “Which is more beautiful, day time Earth or night time Earth?” – Shreya from Mellor Community Primary School in Leicester
Tim Peake – “They’re both stunning! Some of the things I love at night time are thunderstorms and the aurora, and we’ve really been quite lucky, we’ve had a lot of solar activity during this mission and I thought we wouldn’t see that much of the aurora but we’ve been spoiled, we’ve seen it more often than not . … By day we get to see all of the beautiful places that we recognize on Earth. I take lots of photos in day time and at night time and they’re both absolutely stunning.”
4. “What exercises do you do to keep fit in space?” – Aasiya from Mellor Community Primary School in Leicester
Tim Peake – “Yes, keeping fit in space is really important so that we can prepare ourselves for coming back and living on Earth in a 1 G environment. We tend to exercise about two hours every day and that’s a mixture of cardiovascular exercise, we’ll either jump on the running machine or on the bike machine to get our heart rate up and to give our heart muscle a good workout, and we’ll also exercise on the device we call ARED, which uses vacuum cylinders to give us some weight resistance so we can do muscle training.”
5. “Do you have a telescope on the ISS?” – Noah, age 4
Tim Peake – “We don’t have a telescope, but we do have several pairs of binoculars which are stabilised so we can use them for astronomy as well as looking at the Earth, and some of our cameras have some really large lenses on them so we can see down to a very fine detail. We can almost see something as small as your house or your garden through those camera lenses. So no telescopes but plenty of optics to help us look at the stars and to look at Earth.”
6. “How does it feel to inspire so many children and adults getting into STEM subjects with the ‘Tim Peake effect’?” – A question from our Facebook page
Tim Peake – “I set out on this journey with the objective of wanting to share it as much with everybody as possible. In the UK, since Helen Sharman’s flight (which is almost exactly 25 years ago), the UK hasn’t had much to do with human space flight, so it’s a rare opportunity. So I wanted to try to share this mission as much as possible, with everybody, and to try and help inspire our next generation of scientists and engineers. … There is a real great benefit of getting involved in STEM subjects right now that will set you up for a very exciting future. And I’m just absolutely delighted that this mission has seemed to have that effect and I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.”
7. “What’s the hardest thing about being in space and what’s the best thing?” – A question from our Facebook page
Tim Peake – “The hardest thing about being in space is being separated from friends and family, from an emotional point of view. … From an operations perspective, the hardest thing about being in space is not losing stuff! It’s very easy to let go and as soon as you let go of something, it just drifts away. And actually it moves fairly quickly and you look back a couple minutes later and it’s not there and you’ve lost it. So keeping track of everything is probably the hardest thing about being in space.
The best thing about being in space has to be the view of planet Earth. I thought that after a month, two months, three months you’d go to the Cupola windows, look down, and you’ve kind of seen it all before, you’re used to it, but it’s something that I never get used to. There’s always something exciting, something different, something beautiful to see outside the window. It’s hugely addictive, and the more you look at planet Earth, the more you start seeing its secrets being revealed to you.”
8. “With five months of your mission gone, and a month until you return to Earth, what are your thoughts going into this final month and how have your perspectives changed over the last five months?” – Anu, Director of the National Space Academy
Tim Peake – “From an operational point of view, we just treat every day the same up here. You have to be very focused, there’s a lot of work still left to do, and you have to obviously be ready for any eventualities … so I know I’m going back in four weeks’ time, but I don’t really think about that, I just kind of take every day as it comes, and focus on what the next main task is.
But over the five months, looking back on the mission, it has just been hugely rewarding, it’s been an incredible privilege to live and work on board the Space Station. The science has been amazing, the space walk was a real highlight, and things like capturing visiting vehicles and Dragon spacecraft as well a real highlight. I think it won’t really be until I get back to Earth that I’ll actually have time to reflect on just how amazing the mission has been.”
'Astronaut wanted: no experience necessary'
It’s a big week for British human space flight – today is also the 25th anniversary of the launch of the first Briton in space, Helen Sharman.
On 18 May 1991 Helen launched in a Soyuz spacecraft and spent eight days on the Mir space station as part of a programme called Project Juno. This project was a unique collaboration between the Soviet Union and private British companies with the aim of fostering international relations.
Famously, Helen’s astronaut career started she replied to a radio advert that ran “astronaut wanted: no experience necessary”. But it wasn’t a simple lottery selection. Helen’s scientific background (she worked as a food chemist for Mars) helped her beat nearly 13,000 other applicants, and she undertook rigorous astronaut training for more than a year before her flight.
The National Space Centre has a range of artefacts from her mission including the couch that Helen sat in during her trip on the Soyuz, her Sokol training spacesuit, and, on a special loan from Helen, her actual flight suit complete with a chocolate stain that she got while floating around on Mir!
Tim Peake has been inspiring children and adults throughout the world with his Principia mission.
He will be on board the International Space Station until 18 June, so we are already planning a celebration for his return. If you would like to join us, check out our TIM PEAKE LANDING PARTY webpage for full details and tickets.