UK Astronauts Make Unique Book Loan
Tim Peake reading in the International Space Station Cupola - Credit: ESA

UK Astronauts Make Unique Book Loan

16/03/2020Written by Alison Goddard

UK astronaut space book - a guest blog from Alison Goddard, Telecom editor for EJR-Quartz working for the European Space Agency.

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In this guest blog, Alison Goddard, Telecom editor for EJR-Quartz working for the European Space Agency, celebrates a special gift presented to the National Space Centre – as two UK astronauts make a unique book loan.

British astronauts Helen Sharman and Tim Peake with the book that has twice flown into space - Credit: National Space Centre

“Road to the stars” is an autobiography by Yuri Gargarin, who was the first man to go into space when his Soviet capsule Vostok 1 completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961.

The 296-page volume, first published in 1962 and signed by Gargarin himself, was given to Helen Sharman when she became the UK’s first astronaut in 1991.

She was presented with the book during her training at Star City near Moscow – now called the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre – ahead of her flight to the Mir space station, which operated from 1986 to 2001.

Sharman took the book with her, adding her signature while in space. Her crewmates – Viktor Afanasyev, Anatoly Artsebarsky, Sergei Krikalev and Musa Manarov – also signed the tome.

ESA astronaut Tim Peake reading a book from Helen Sharman on the ISS. Credit: ESA

Some 24 years later when Tim Peake was selected as an ESA astronaut, Sharman lent him the book.

He returned the volume to space aboard his Principia mission in 2015, adding his signature while on the International Space Station. It was also autographed by fellow crew members Scott Kelly, Tim Kopra, Mikhail Korniyenko, Yuri Malenchenko, Aleksei Ovchinin, Oleg Skripochka, Sergei Volkov and Jeffrey Williams.

Some 15 astronauts have signed the book - Credit: National Space Centre

The book has now gone on long-term display at the National Space Centre.

“We are most grateful to Helen Sharman for lending us this unique artefact,” says Dan Kendall, curator at the National Space Centre.

“We have promised to return it the next time a British astronaut goes into space, so that more signatures can be added.”

About the author: ​Alison Goddard is a Telecom editor for EJR-Quartz working for the European Space Agency.