One week from today a ginger-haired, slender-framed and generally unassuming British citizen will pilot an oversized firework beyond Earth’s atmosphere towards a vast space station. The stuff of science fiction.
Yet 168 hours from now, a Russian Soyuz rocket will have blasted off carrying European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Timothy Peake alongside a Russian cosmonaut and NASA astronaut, for Expedition 46 on the International Space Station (ISS).
If like me you marvel at such human endeavours and engineering achievements then, perhaps, you may want to consider these key Qs…
How do you get to the International Space Station?
The 15 minute video linked below includes unique, insightful footage from a previous journey to the ISS. Pay close attention to the clip for some refreshingly mundane chit-chat between the astronauts – a seesaw of forced humour and subdued fear as first they hurtle up to near Earth orbit and then ‘fall’ towards docking with the ISS itself…
How long will it take to get to the ISS?
One of the bemusing points to grapple with is that it although it takes a matter of minutes to ascend beyond Earth’s atmosphere to Space (sources differ from 8 to 11 minutes) – it then takes many hours (sometimes days) to approach and dock with the ISS.
All you need do is take 15 minutes to watch the video for captivating footage and revealing interview material that explains the very real challenges of this process.
Why is Tim Peake going to Space?
Peake’s mission is dubbed “Principia” after Newton’s mighty tome on gravity. This brief ESA video (right) presents a neat summary of Peake’s work which has multiple purposes, one emphasis being on education and relating Space exploration and innovation to all of us back here on Earth.
Also check out this selection of in-depth videos about Tim’s mission at ESA’s dedicated YouTube playlist…
What is the ISS?
“It’s a million pounds, over the size of a football field, flying around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour in a vacuum – and it works.”
So says NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly who understands the ISS more than most having recently passed the milestone for the longest time spent in Space. Peake’s mission will be a brisk 6 months.
The ISS is effectively a vast science lab. The people on board conduct hundreds of diverse experiments in a fairly regular 9-to-5 working week, while also enacting studies themselves, e.g. testing the human capacity for long term Space flight. Tim himself will be doing all sorts of things, ten of which are outlined in this BBC listicle.
So who else has Peake fever?
As a fellow British citizen, one who keeps a casual eye on Space news, it’s perhaps understandable that I feel a healthy mix of pride, reverence and joy brewing up for Tim’s adventure… so much so that I am celebrating Tim’s lift-off with a giveaway of my short, debut novel Monkey… a literary science fiction sojourn that forms part one of the Feng Trilogy.
Download the FREE ebook edition (and free ebook reader if needed) on Tuesday 15 December and, always, keep your head up to the stars…