VIDEO: Chichester astronaut Tim Peake to go to International Space Station

Chichester-born astronaut Tim Peake will be the first UK astronaut in space for more than 20 years.

He will live and work on the International Space Station (ISS) for six months where he will carry out a science programme and take part in a European education initiative before and during his mission.

Tim Peake on a previous visit to Chichester High School

Tim Peake on a previous visit to Chichester High School

He is one of six astronauts selected from more than 8,000 hopefuls.

The flight is expected to take place in November 2015.

Peake, who was a major and a helicopter pilot in the British Army Air Corps, has been in training for an expedition to the ISS since 2009.

To get there, he will ride a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Tasks once in orbit will include helping to maintain the 27,000km/h platform and carrying out science experiments in Esa’s Columbus laboratory module, which is attached to the front of the 400-tonne complex.

Asked at a news conference at the Science Museum in London if he was worried about dangers on the mission, he said: “No, I think my future career is probably far safer than my past career, I’ve carried out some fairly high risk flight tests. It’s not an unfamiliar environment to be working in, I’m not overly apprehensive about that.”

Forty-one-year-old Peake, a former Chichester High School for Boys pupil, is so far the only Briton ever to be accepted into the European Astronaut Corps.

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 (the UK is Esa’s third largest contributor).

Tim’s parents Nigel and Angela live in Westbourne where he grew up.

His former high school has also named a sports centre after its former pupil called the Tim Peake Sports and Conference Centre, which was opened by the man himself.

Peake, who was instrumental in introducing Apache helicopters into service with the British Army, after flying them in the United States, said: “It really is a true privilege to be assigned to a long duration mission, it feels like a real high point in a long career in aviation.

“I am really grateful to my family, friends and professional colleagues who are supporting me as I prepare for the challenge that lies ahead.

“The mission to the International Space Station is going to be a wonderful opportunity, not just for Europe and European science but the UK as well.”

In a jokey reference to David Bowie fan, Commander Chris Hadfield, he said: “I do play the guitar, but very badly, and I wouldn’t inflict my singing on anybody.”

Cdr Hadfield, from Canada, was his country’s first professional astronaut, and gained a legion of fans on the Soyuz space capsule mission to and from the ISS, by performing a cover of the Bowie classic, Space Oddity. He now has close to one million followers on Twitter.

Maj Peake praised Cdr Hadfield for the “fantastic job” he had done. “I don’t think I’ll be able to top the tweeting, but I will also be tweeting, to encourage a generation to take an interest in space.”

He said it was too early to say what experiments he would be involved in, but there were “rolling experiments” in different fields on the space station which he expected to continue.

These were in fields such as human physiology, medical research into vaccines, fluids physics and astrobiology.

It was too early to say whether there would be an opportunity for him to do a spacewalk during his tour.

Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated Tim on his achievement.

“This is a momentous day, not just for Tim Peake but for Great Britain,” he said.

“It is a great sign of our thriving British space sector, which has seen real growth thanks to our world-class research, and now supports nearly 30,000 jobs.

“What an achievement that Tim was picked for this historic role from over 8,000 applicants from around the world. I am sure he will do us proud and I hope that he will inspire the next generation to pursue exciting careers in science and engineering.”

For more reaction see this Thursday’s Chichester Observer (May 23)