Ground control to Major Tim... date set for astronaut

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IT’S the kind of trip most people only ever dream about – but astronaut Tim Peake is now counting down the days to flying into outer space.

The European Space Agency announced yesterday that Major Peake will join Expedition 46, launching in November or December 2015.

Major Timothy Peake''Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Major Timothy Peake''Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

The 41-year-old, who is originally from Chichester, will fly to the 400-tonne International Space Station.

His mission will make him the first UK national to live and work in space, and to fly the Union flag, on a British-government-funded programme

His parents Nigel and Angela Peake, who live in Westbourne, near Emsworth, were just as excited as their son yesterday as they heard the announcement.

Mr Peake, 70, told The News: ‘We’re both very proud.

‘We’re delighted for him because it’s what he has wanted and been training for. We are looking forward to hearing about all his adventures.’

A former helicopter test pilot and major in the British Army, the dad-of-two has been undergoing gruelling training in locations across the world since 2009 to prepare him for the expedition.

After graduating from basic astronaut training in November 2010, he continued training to increase his skills in weightlessness, including working in spacesuits.

In 2011, Tim went to Sardinia to live in a cave for week to simulate the kind of isolation experienced in space exploration.

Last year, he spent almost two weeks in an underwater base off the coast of Florida.

The course focused on working on a simulated asteroid.

Yesterday Maj Tim said: ‘This is another important mission for Europe and in particular a wonderful opportunity for European science, industry and education to benefit from microgravity research.

‘I’m extremely grateful to the ground support teams who make it possible for us to push the boundaries of knowledge through human spaceflight and exploration.’

Mr Peake said his son’s most difficult challenge has been learning a new language.

‘He’s had to learn Russian as he’s going up with Russian cosmonauts,’ he said.

‘I think he felt that was the most difficult thing – the rest he loves.

‘He’s never been a great one for languages. But he’s stuck at it and passed – which is typical of him.’

Video conferences will keep loved ones in the loop

MAJOR Tim Peake is hoping to be able to keep in touch via a weekly video link.

His dad Nigel said: ‘For his wife and children, they will be able to have a private video conference with him which is great.

‘When he was in Florida recently on an underwater expedition, he kept in touch with us by e-mail. There’s doesn’t seem a place you can go now where you can’t keep in touch, whether it’s underwater or in deep space.’

To get to the ISS Maj Peake will ride a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The mission will last six months.