Blog | World Space Week day 3: Meeting an astronaut
British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake is currently training for a mission to the International Space Station, but he still took some time out to meet Scouts who had achieved their Astronautics Activity Badges, sponsored by the UK Space Agency
Scouts from 2nd Timperley Scout Group recently attended the UK Space Conference in Glasgow to meet British astronaut Tim Peake of the European Space Agency. A former Scout and military test pilot, Tim is currently in training to fly a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2015, where he’ll live and work for six months. He’ll become the first Briton for more than 20 years to go into space.
Scouting magazine caught up with Tim for a chat about his life, career and what it’s like to have the best job in the universe. Read excerpts from an exclusive interview below – the full-length feature will be published in the December/January issue of the magazine, which is only available to Scout volunteers.
Five minutes with Tim Peake
What does applying to be an astronaut involve?
You have to have a degree in any subject or be a pilot with a thousand hours – they were the only entry criteria. Then the stages begin. The first stage is called hard skills, which is quite an intense testing phase including some maths, physics, engineering; once you passed that you moved on to soft skills, like psychological profiling, team building, leadership and how you work under pressure.
The toughest part of the application process was a week-long medical that was very invasive and very thorough!
What kind of traits do you need to have as an astronaut?
The astronaut’s role is so diverse and varied: one minute you might be performing very complex scientific experiments and the next you might be doing a detailed engineering task. My background is as a military test pilot and my colleagues come from different backgrounds. Everyone has certain skills that they bring, so I don’t think any one person has the whole package, but together you make up a very highly qualified and skilled team.
What does the training consist of?
There are a number of things to have to learn: firstly everything about the space station itself – how it works and how we look after it. You then need to be able to space walk in the American and Russian spacesuits, operate a robotic arm and fly the spacecraft. Learning the Russian language is a big part and we need to speak it fairly fluently; everything regarding the Soyez spacecraft is all in Russian.
What’s the most commonly asked question you are asked about going into space?
One of them is ‘how do you go to the loo?’, which is actually a pretty normal process using vacuums and a suction process to keep everything in the right place. Another question is about the quality of the food, which is pretty good actually. It’s mostly tinned or rehydrated food or dried goods, but it doesn’t taste too bad.
When do you go into space?
I launch on 1 December, 2015. I’ve got about two and a half of years training to go. It’s sunk in now and I’ve started my training but occasionally I’ll be driving back from work and suddenly remind myself that I have a launch date and the clock is ticking towards going into space!
Find out more
World Space Week runs from 4 to 10 October. Visit worldspaceweek.org
Astronautics is just one of an amazing array of activities open to Scouts. Find out more at scouts.org.uk/what-we-do