ASTANA –– Astronaut Tim Peake made history today, blasting off from a launchpad in Kazakhstan on his way to join the crew of the International Space Station.
Peake, a European Space Agency astronaut, will spend six months orbiting the Earth with the crew of the ISS.
He will be the first British astronaut to join the ISS crew –– and the first “official” British astronaut in space. There have been other British-born astronauts, but they either held American citizenship or were privately funded.
Peake, 43, lifted off from Pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome –– the same launchpad used by Sputnik, the first satellite, and Russia’s Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space –– on board the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft.
The journey should take about six hours, according to NASA, during which the craft will orbit the Earth four times at 28,800 kilometres per hour.
With the former test pilot and British Army Air Corps officer are NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian commander and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, both veterans of space flight who have previously worked on the ISS.
They will join the three astronauts currently on board the platform, which has been continuously occupied since November, 2000.
After leaving the Cosmonaut Hotel, where astronauts traditionally stay before missions, Peake honoured the long-standing tradition of space adventurers by signing his bedroom door.
Peake had to undergo 6,000 hours of training and learn Russian before embarking on the mission.
The astronauts are part of the European Space Agency’s Principia Mission, which will run experiments and test new technologies for future exploration missions.
The crew will take advantage of the effects of being in space –– including weightlessness, extreme radiation and vacuum –– to study the physical and psychological impact on humans.
Peake has also committed to running the full distance of the London marathon from space, completing 26.2 miles on a treadmill as the ISS orbits the Earth. He will need to be harnessed when he does so to cope with being weightless.
The ESA says the crew is due to land back on Earth on June 6, 2016.