Major Tim Peake has made space history by becoming the first official British astronaut to blast off to the International Space Station.
Major Peake, alongside Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Nasa’s flight engineer Tim Kopra took off at 11.03 GMT from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on board a Soyuz TMA-19 rocket.
The married father of two, from Chichester, West Sussex, has spent six years in training for the mission, which will see him spend six months aboard the ISS – an orbiting laboratory that speeds through space at 17,500mph (28,160km/h) some 248 miles (399km/h) above Earth.
The rocket took off from launch pad one (sequence pictured from left to right) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – the same spot where Yuri Gagarin lifted off from in 1961 to become the first man in space. Its awesome thrust is powering Major Peake and his companions to more than 1,000mph (1,609km/h) towards the International Space Station
Major Peake, a former Army helicopter pilot, is on his way to the ISS in a module the size of a van, which sits on top of a Soviet rocket based on a 1950s ballistic missile. He is pictured inside the capsule giving a ‘thumbs up’ to the on-board camera
Last night, he enjoyed a massage and watched a film as he spent one final evening relaxing prior to his historic space flight.
Major Peake, a former Army helicopter pilot, is on his way to the ISS in a module the size of a van, which sits on top of a Soviet rocket based on a 1950s ballistic missile.
Major Tim Peake became Britain’s first official astronaut today and should step on to the International Space Station at around 7.25pm GMT to begin his six-month stay after his Russian rocket departed for space at exactly 11.03am GMT. After boarding the bus to the launch pad in his space suit, Tim Peake created a heart with his hands and gestured towards his son Oliver
Minutes after the ‘flawless’ launch, Prime Minister David Cameron posted a video message to Major Peake.
He said: ‘Tim, I know you have been dreaming of this day for a long time and we will be with you for every step of the way, watching with admiration and wonder.
‘So on behalf of everyone in Britain let me wish you the very best of luck. You are doing us all proud.’
The astronaut’s last evening on Earth until next summer was spent having a massage and, following cosmonaut tradition, watching White Sun of the Desert, a cult Russian film.
And, at a press conference given from behind glass to protect him from infection, he said the thing he is looking forward to most is looking back at Earth.
Major Peake said: ‘I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for that moment and that will occur in the Soyuz spacecraft once we get injected into orbit.
‘I’ll be able to look out the right window and see the beautiful view of Planet Earth.
‘We’ve been so busy focused on this mission that I kind of forgot Christmas was just over a week away. Our thoughts will be with everybody on Earth enjoying Christmas, and with our friends and family, of course.’
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