Tim Peake assigned to the ISS in 2015!

Reception to celebrate ESA astronaut Tim Peake on behalf of the UK Space Agency at the Houses of Parliament

I was excited to receive an invitation three days in advance of this reception on Monday 20th May and wondered with intrigue as to what the “ESA Astronaut announcement” would be. I leapt out of bed on the Sunday morning when the news broke on Twitter that Tim had been assigned to a five month mission in 2015, as by my previous calculations and hearsay on various forums, I had thought 2016 was the earliest he could hope for.  A few hours later I had verified the content of the embargoed press release – Tim really was assigned to the November 2015 launch!

Thomas Reiter, David Willetts, Tim Peake and David Parker
© Max Alexander 2013 Max Alexander/UK Space Agency

I was unfortunately unable to attend the press conference on Monday morning at the Science Museum, where Thomas Reiter (Director of Human Spaceflight at the European Space Agency), David Willetts (Minister for Universities and Science) and David Parker (Head of the UK Space Agency) made the announcement that British astronaut Tim Peake was to fly a long duration five month mission to the International Space Station, launching on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonaur in November 2015.

We were delighted to join the event at the House of Commons, with Maggie Lieu, Richard Painter, Alex Dawn and Tom Nordheim of UKSEDS and myself and Abigail Calzada Diaz of SGAC in attendance.

Alex Dawn, Alistair Scott, David Willetts, Maggie Lieu, Jane MacArthur

It was great to be able to congratulate Tim Peake in person after this momentous announcement and for us to keep a connection with him, after meeting him at the Farnborough International Airshow last year, and at his Space Boffins podcast and British Interplanetary Society talk earlier this year. Tim commented on his Twitter following being around 4,000 last week, 7,000 when he got off the plane during the weekend of the leaked announcement and 11,000 after the resulting media frenzy surrounding the press conference.

Tim will be relocating to Houston for training with his crewmates, and despite several years of training already, there is still more to learn, particularly with grappling the SpaceX Dragon during docking to the ISS and possibly Orbital Science’s Cygnus by 2015. It is too far ahead to have any idea as to whether he may do an EVA while on station, but all astronauts remain trained and prepared for this eventuality.

BIS President Alistair Scott looks forward to Tim Peake being the first BIS member in space!