Science & Environment

Tim Peake: Astronaut's sights set on 'fantastic' view of Earth

Tim Peake speaking at a news conference in Kazakhstan Image copyright PA

UK astronaut Tim Peake says the thing he is looking forward to most on his spaceflight is the view of Earth.

Mr Peake was speaking to journalists on the eve of his landmark flight into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

He said of seeing our planet from orbit: "I don't think anything can really prepare you for that moment."

On Tuesday, he will head off on his six-month mission on board the International Space Station.

He is set to launch aboard a Russian rocket with fellow crew members Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko.

Mr Peake's first glimpse of the curvature of our planet will be from his seat in the Soyuz crew capsule after it is injected into orbit.

"I'll be able to look out the right window and see that wonderful view of Earth," he said, at a news conference held behind a glass window at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur town.


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The crew is currently in quarantine to guard against any of them getting ill while in space.

"The best piece of advice I've been given by many astronauts and cosmonauts who've flown before is to make sure you get time to look out the window, not for taking a photograph but to enjoy it for your own benefit.

"Hopefully in a six-month mission - 173 days on orbit - I hope to get plenty of opportunities to do just that."

Helen Sharman, the first British citizen to go into orbit, recently told BBC News: "Whenever you could take some time out up there where you feel in control, it was a good feeling… no one ever gets tired looking out of the window."

Space travellers have long reported back on the so-called "overview effect" after returning from their missions. The term was coined by the writer Frank White in the 1980s, based on testimony from 29 astronauts. He argued that seeing the planet from such a heady vantage point could transform astronauts' perspectives on themselves and on the world.

Image copyright NASA
Image caption Looking at the earth from space is known as the "overview effect"

Nasa astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria has said of the effect: "When you see the Earth, it's a sensation that's incredibly hard to grasp and is very emotional.

"There is a sense of the enormity of the Earth and the population of humanity compared with the seven of us, or however many of us are on board at the time."

Mr Peake met questions from the world's media with a characteristic combination of good humour and confidence.

Asked about spending Christmas in space, Mr Peake replied: "We've been so busy focusing on this mission that we've forgotten Christmas is only a week away really.

"This being my first time in space, I'll still be adapting to zero-gravity.

"We'll have friends and family, of course, and we'll be able to give them a call on Christmas Day. I also heard that a Christmas pudding went up on orbital four, so I'll have a piece as well."

Last night on Earth

He said his last night on Earth before the mission would be spent with his wife and two young sons - and that he would participate in a tradition for departing crews at Baikonur: watching White Sun of the Desert, a Soviet western film (also known as "Osterns") made in 1970.

The former Army helicopter pilot from Chichester will be travelling to the ISS with one of the most experienced cosmonauts in the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) programme - Yuri Malenchenko.

The trio is completed by US Army colonel Timothy Kopra, who has flown into space once - on the space shuttle in 2009.

They will join three crew members already living aboard the ISS, including Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending a year aboard the station as part of a biomedical experiment involving his twin brother - who also happens to be an astronaut.

The new arrivals will have to hit the ground running, with a US-based spacewalk scheduled to occur in January. Nasa wants to replace a box on the exterior of the orbiting outpost that plays a part in the ISS's electrical control system.

The Soyuz rocket carrying Peake, Kopra and Malenchenko is due to launch on Tuesday 15 December at 11:03 GMT (17:03 local time).

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Follow the launch

The BBC has had unique behind-the-scenes access to Tim Peake's training and launch.

Follow his video diaries on Horizon - Tim Peake Special: How To Be An Astronaut and watch the launch live on Blast Off Live - A Stargazing Live Special at 10:30 GMT on Tuesday 15 December.

You can also see him arrive on the International Space Station, at 19:00 GMT the same evening, on BBC Two in Stargazing Live: Brit In Space.

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