Major Tim Peake, 41, Britain's first astronaut for more than 20 years

First British astronaut for 20 years announced

Britain’s first astronaut for more than 20 years will visit the International Space Station (ISS) after being named today.

Former Army former helicopter test pilot Major Tim Peake, 41, is one of six astronauts selected from more than 8,000 hopefuls to join the crew of Expedition 46/47 for six months in 2015.

Peake, who’s selection was announced at a press conference at the Science Museum in London this morning, will be the first British astronaut to visit the ISS, where he will live and work for six months.

Speaking at the conference he said: "It really is a true privilege to be assigned to a long duration mission, it feels like a real high point in a long career in aviation.

"I am really grateful to my family, friends and professional colleagues who are supporting me as I prepare for the challenge that lies ahead. The mission to the International Space Station is going to be a wonderful opportunity, not just for Europe and European science but the UK as well."

In a jokey reference to Canadian ISS astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, who made international news recently by performing a cover of the Bowie classic, Space Oddity, from the space station Peake said: "I do play the guitar, but very badly, and I wouldn't inflict my singing on anybody."

Maj Peake will carry out a science programme and take part in a European education initiative before and during his mission.

He said it was too early to say what experiments he would be involved in, but there were "rolling experiments" in different fields on the space station which he expected to continue, including fields such as human physiology, medical research into vaccines, fluids physics and astrobiology.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This is a momentous day, not just for Tim Peake but for Great Britain. It is a great sign of our thriving British space sector, which has seen real growth thanks to our world-class research, and now supports nearly 30,000 jobs.

"What an achievement that Tim was picked for this historic role from over 8,000 applicants from around the world. I am sure he will do us proud and I hope that he will inspire the next generation to pursue exciting careers in science and engineering."

In 2009, joined the European Astronaut Corps Peake and was appointed as a UK ambassador for science and space-based careers. He has worked with the UK Space Agency in developing the country's microgravity research programme.

He graduated from basic astronaut training in November 2010, and in 2011 took part in the European Space Agency's international Caves training that simulated space exploration during a week-long stay underground, isolated from the outside world.

In 2012, he spent almost two weeks in an underwater base off the coast of Florida, USA, as part of NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), a testbed for space exploration technologies.

The course focused on asteroid exploration involving communication delays with ground control and working on a simulated asteroid.

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