Science & Environment

Tim Peake: 'Science can solve Planet Earth's problems'

Tim Peak in space Image copyright NASA/ESA
Image caption Tim Peake talks about his scientific experiments from the space station

Tim Peake wants his mission to the International Space Station (ISS) to change attitudes towards research.

The UK astronaut said he hoped his time in orbit would make people think about how science could help solve the world's problems.

And he added that the tens of billions of pounds spent on the ISS would ultimately benefit human health.

Tim spoke with reporters in a Tuesday link-up intended to focus on the science he is doing during his mission.

"I do hope this mission has inspired people to perhaps think differently about science, about space exploration - and to think about how science can solve so many problems and challenges we are going to be facing in the future," he told me.

"I think that's incredibly important and I think if I can help to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers then that's mission success for me."

Image copyright ESA/NASA
Image caption Astronauts have to monitor their eyesight which can deteriorate in microgravity
Image copyright ESA/NASA
Image caption One of the jobs of an ISS astronaut is to launch small satellites from the platform

When Tim was asked what he would miss the most when he returned to Earth on 18 June, he replied that it would be the view from his window: "I thought that after a few months, you would be used to Planet Earth. But I'm enjoying it more and more.

"The longer you spend up here the more you discover about our own planet - the different times of day, the different phases, the different seasons.

"I'm seeing the Northern Hemisphere from space changing from winter to spring to summer, and it's the most incredible thing to see. The different weather systems, the ice melting in the Hudson Bay.

"The Earth reveals its secrets slowly over time, and the more you look out the window the more there is to see."

Image copyright ESA/NASA
Image caption The view of Planet Earth is captivating

When asked whether robots could have performed the scientific experiments he was involved in and so save billions of pounds - he replied that the money invested in the ISS was money well spent.

"So much of the scientific research we are doing up here is on the human body, and I personally think that that's where we are finding some of the most exciting results and also some of the ones that will most benefit the people on Planet Earth.

"Investigations into osteoporosis, muscular dystrophy, cancer vaccines, the cardiovascular system, the whole aging process - the list is endless, and this is all a result of flying human beings into space to study the human body."

For many of the experiments, Tim has been the "guinea pig".

Image copyright ESA/NASA
Image caption Tim as guinea pig: His blood is frequently sampled to understand the changes to his body
Image copyright ESA/NASA
Image caption Among current experiments is a system to study the physics of combustion

Previous studies have shown that weightlessness takes its toll on the human body.

No astronaut has been in space for longer than 14 months. If people are to go on missions to other worlds, researchers will have to find ways to enable astronauts to stay healthy in space for longer.

Part of that involves astronauts monitoring their vital signs in great detail.

Tim told me that he had noticed many changes shortly after he was in space.

"I had increased pressure in my head; (I felt) stuffed up; my face was puffy; I had nasal congestion. This was all the result of the fluid in my body shifting up round my chest and in my heart.

"But what has happened in the past few months is that my body has got rid of all that excess fluid. I've completely adapted to microgravity."

"I've also noticed over the course of the mission that my eyesight is changing slightly. That is an ongoing experiment we are studying - astronauts' vision due to spaceflight."

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