The Great British Astronaut
On Saturday 18th June, 10.15am BST, Britain regained a hero. Having spent the last 6 months living and working on board the International Space Station, Tim Peake returned to terra firma after a bumpy landing on the Kazakh Steppe in Kazakhstan. “Re-entry was pretty dynamic, feeling a lot of dizziness and vertigo but on the whole, doing okay!” says Tim as he’s carried, seated like a king, from the landing site to a nearby medical tent.
“The best ride ever” says Major Tim Peake directly after landing back on Earth.
Joining Tim on expedition 47, also arriving back to Earth on Saturday were Commander Tim Kopra (USA) of NASA, Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko (Russia) of Roscosmos.
We headed down to London’s Science Museum to watch the thrilling journey of the Soyuz space craft live, with Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut to be sent to space.
Photograph: Helen Sharman at Science Museum / Techmixmag
Helen recalled how it felt to return to Earth and took us through how Tim would be feeling once he landed.
Nauseous. As the spacecraft falls to the ground the astronauts inside feel the force of 5G’s. That’s 5 times the force that we feel stood on Earth. Think of the stomach ‘drop’ you feel on a particularly thrilling rollercoaster… then triple it!
Heavy. Helen said “after being used to the feeling of weightlessness, when the effects of gravity suddenly return even your little finger feels heavy!”
Hot. As the Soyuz space craft entered Earth's atmosphere at 100 km altitude its exterior heated up to a very toasty 1600°C. It’s not the largest capsule either, with Helen recalling that even as a slight woman, her shoulders were overlapping with the astronauts’ next to her for the whole 5-hour journey. The space suits are bulky for insulation, to absorb impact, protect the human body, and even inflate in case of emergency! So all in all, it’s a sweaty experience; no wonder Tim needed a personal flannel holder!
Smell. “The smells of Earth are just so strong” says Tim Peake, after being carried from the Soyuz space craft. On board the space station, the air is made mechanically from splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. So needless to say, the space station is pretty void of smells. When you’re accustomed to this, even the smell of warm air would seem strong.
Sight. They we’re just wearing those sunglasses to look cool! After spending 5 hours crammed into the Soyuz spacecraft, shoulders overlapping, the three astronauts
Touch. Next time you feel a slight breeze of the air on your cheeks, a splash of water trickling down your nose, stop and think. In space you don’t feel any of that. Helen says she missed feeling the wind on her skin, and even 25 years after returning to Earth, sometimes it still makes her stop to think how lucky she is.
Photograph: Soyuz Space Craft after landing / NASA
Photograph: Tim Peake being carried from the Soyuz to a medical tent / NASA
During his 186 days, Tim has conducted over 250 experiments, carried out educational demonstrations, performed a spacewalk, given a ‘Cosmic Classroom’ science lesson to thousands of British school children, sent 2kg of rocket seeds back to Earth for British schools to grow, run the London Marathon, launched the Astro Pi experiment, eaten gourmet space food designed by Heston Blumenthal, answered thousands of questions of twitter and inspired not only the young generation, but every Briton living today.
Photograph: Tim Peake floating with packaged rocket seeds / twitter, Tim Peake
Tim is now at the home of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Cologne, where he has been reunited with his family. But it’s not all relaxing for our star, as he now begins weeks of rigorous testing to determine the effects of 6 months in anti-gravity on the human body. Once the tests are over, he will begin a 2-year tour, speaking on his time in space.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 21st June, Tim will give his first press conference.
Photograph: Tim Peake, hugging his mother, with his father clapping. / Philippe Sebirot/ESA/PA