Tim Peake – reaching new heights

As 2015 was drawing to a close most of us were preparing for Christmas, but not Tim Peake.

He was hitting the the headlines as the first Britain to endure a 6 month long stay at the International Space Station (ISS). There he is to carry out valuable research. After a 6 year long, intense training regime, and 6 months in quarantine, on 15th December it was time for Tim to put all of his training into practice and blast off to the ISS where he will call home.

Image: NASA HQ PHOTO

Image: NASA HQ PHOTO

As the Soyuz spaceship controls and the other two crew members on board (Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra) are Russian, Peake had to learn the language saying it was the ‘single most difficult aspect of [his] training’. This is compared to undertaking gruelling 6 hour underwater tasks to simulate the difficulty of what he will encounter on a space walk in a zero gravity environment. He practiced withstanding brutal G-force and even lived underground in a cave for a week.

The ‘Peake’ of any astronauts career must be the space walk and Tim’s first walk took place yesterday to replace a faulty electrical box. The mission was a success, albeit cut short by Kopra’s leaky helmet. But what will Tim actually be doing 400 km above us? Major Peake will be conducting a set of different experiments which utilise the zero gravity environment and provide vital answers for life on Earth. The main sector of experiments is the effect of the lack of gravity on the human body. This would give us an insight into what would happen if humans ever did want to inhabit space.

The astronauts health is monitored by frequent blood and urine samples to keep a close eye on any physiological changes. Other experiments include how the inner ear works and links to brain pressure, the so called ‘fluid shift model’. Much focus is also on human circadian rhythms as Tim will see 16 sunrises and sunsets a day which will be confusing for the mind but even more confusing for he body and its sleeping patterns. Not only will the human subjects be tested but the ‘electromagnetic levitator experiment’ will analyse the properties of metals by heating and rapidly cooling them whilst suspended in air.

Although space travel has obvious dangers and if you have a claustrophobic temperament it is definitely not for you, Tim’s other goal is to encourage more youngsters to become interested in space travel. It is an extremely important area of research that impacts us down here on earth. With 24 students committed to venturing to Mars in 2025 with the knowledge they will never return to Earth, is there much future in space travel and research?

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