The eyes of the world are on Major Tim Peake as he becomes the first official British astronaut to be sent into space.
The wait is finally over for the 43-year-old, from Westbourne near Emsworth, who this morning blasts off on a six-month mission to the International Space station.
And the former University of Portsmouth student has been sent good-luck messages from the Portsmouth area.
His dad, Nigel Peake, from Chichester, said: ‘We’re immensely proud. As you can imagine, it’s quite surreal to think you’re the father of an astronaut, especially a British astronaut.
‘We’re not worried at all. We’ve been following his training and know how thorough it is, so we don’t have any fears. I’m more worried about him driving home on the M27. That’s far more dangerous, believe me, than going up there.’
Roy Briscoe is a parish councillor in Westbourne. He said: ‘It’s absolutely fantastic. Everyone is talking about it.
‘It’s ignited the imagination to think that somebody from a small country village ends up being our first astronaut. It’s exciting.’
Academics from the University of Portsmouth have added to the clamour of support from around the city for one of its graduates. Maj Peake graduated in 2006 with a degree in flight dynamics and evolutione.
Dr Karen Masters, a reader in astronomy and astrophysics, said: ‘We’re all excited and want to wish Tim the very best of luck. It’s so aspirational that you can go from here to do anything – even be an astronaut.’
Space enthusiasts from the Clanfield Observatory expressed their excitement.
Graham Bryant, the chairman of Hampshire’s Astronomical Group said: ‘It’s an fantastic personal achievement.
‘He is helping put astronomy and space sciences on the map. Vistors come to our observatory and ask about why Britain hasn’t had any astronauts in space. Well, now we have.’
Meanwhile, local business Airbus Defence and Space Ltd will be watching the action on television. The company has helped develop the UK’s space capabilities since the 1960s and now employs 1,400 staff at their offices in Anchorage Road, including one of Leake’s close relatives.
Director of UK communications Jeremy Brown said: ‘It’s fantastic news that we have a UK Space Agency astronaut flying to the International Space Station today. And doubly exciting as his brother-in-law works for us in Portsmouth.’
Maj Peake is due to launch into space at 11am from Kazakhstan today, with crew members American Tim Kopra of Nasa and Russian Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos for the six-month mission.
It will see them carry out a variety of experiments and tests for researchers.
It will take 8min 48sec for the Soyuz rocket to get into orbit and approximately six hours to catch up with the International Space Station.
Maj Peake will be the first British ESA astronaut to go to the space station, which orbits 250 miles above earth.
As part of the Principia mission he will do a series of scientific experiments including growing blood vessels and protein crystals and melting metal alloys in a weightless environment.
Maj Peake is set to return on June 5, 2016.
Only seven British individuals have ventured into space before but Maj Peake is the first official British astronaut.