INSPIRATIONAL astronaut Tim Peake will be the guest of honour as he formally opens Portsmouth’s newest college next month.
Britain’s first man in space will be opening the University Technical College (UTC) on December 12.
Major Peake will also speak to youngsters at the UTC as he tours the recently-opened £10m facility in Hilsea – which specialises in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Ciaran O’Dowda, UTC principal, said pupils were brimming with excitement at the prospect of meeting the army pilot-turned-spaceman.
He said: ‘We’re wildly excited about Tim Peake formally opening our new college.
‘The feeling among students is almost one of disbelief.
‘They find it quite hard to believe that a person who they have seen on the television and has orbited the Earth several hundred times is going to come to terra firma and share his experiences.
‘It really is a huge honour and privilege for us.’
Major Peake – who was born in Chichester, grew up in Westbourne and studied at the University of Portsmouth – rose to fame after blasting into space in December 2015.
He spent six months on board the International Space Station (ISS) before returning to Earth in a Russian-built Soyuz capsule.
The dad-of-two is again training with the European Space Agency to take on his second mission to the ISS.
Mr O’Dowda hoped Major Peake’s visit would be the cornerstone of a lasting relationship between the UTC and the astronaut.
But he added: ‘Tim is inundated with hundreds and hundreds of requests every month.
‘Plus, he is busy training with the European Space Agency. So he probably has bigger fish to fry than us but that won’t stop us from trying.’
The UTC opened to students in September. Since then Mr O’Dowda said it has been an ‘incredible journey’.
Major Peake’s trip comes as the UK Space Agency announced a new education programme built off the success of the astronaut’s mission.
The scheme, entitled Destination Space, initially ran from 2014 to 2017 but has now been extended for a further six months.
It aims to inspire more children into STEM subjects.
The ambition is to breed a new generation of scientists and engineers in a bid to address Britain’s chronic shortage of engineers.