British astronaut Tim Peake has become an ambassador of the Prince’s Trust just a few weeks ahead of his six-month stay at the ISS to help change lives of disadvantaged young people.
Speaking during the last conference in the UK before his launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Russia, Peake stressed that inspiring the next generations and promoting careers in STEM disciplines is among the most important goals of his upcoming mission.
In addition to 23 biomedical experiments to which he lent his body, he will also be conducting experiments designed by British children and students as part of the Astro Pi project using two modified Raspberry Pi computers.
“There are exciting times ahead in space exploration,” Peake said during the press conference at London’s Science Museum. “There is nothing stopping the young people today to become the first people to set foot on Mars. I certainly hope that my mission will inspire the young generation.”
The UK has invested £3m into outreach and education activities related to the upcoming mission, named Principia after the cornerstone work of legendary English physicist Isaac Newton.
Peake said he was eager to share his experience with everyone who wants to get involved and said he will even be tweeting lyrics of his favourite rock songs to give music fans a chance to win a flown-in-space space rocks patch, if they correctly guess the artist.
43-year old Peake, a former helicopter test pilot, will also conduct experiments using the space station’s electromagnetic levitator, which was installed in the European Columbus module last year. This device, essentially a furnace that can heat metals up to 2,100°C and then cool them rapidly, enables experiments with metal alloys that could lead to new, better and lighter materials for aerospace applications.
During the Q&A with media, Peake said he has no fear about the mission’s success and has probably experienced more risk during his years as a helicopter test pilot.
“That is a testimony to the whole training process and all those people who help us prepare for our mission,” he said. “My job as an astronaut is very visible but I would like to thank all those colleagues from Europe, Russia and the USA whose efforts make my mission possible.”
Tim Peake will launch to the ISS on 15 December together with American astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.
He will be the first Briton to go to space with support of the UK government and the first to set foot on the ISS without being in possession of a US passport.
The UK Space Agency will hold four large events on the day of the launch allowing people to get familiar with the mission and science involved.
Speaking at the press conference, Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said that investment in space provides a huge return to the UK of about £10 for every £1 invested.
The UK has joined the ISS programme in 2012.
Tim Peake’s mission takes place during a busy period at the space station. SpaceX’s Dragon capsules are expected to deliver during that time, not only the International Docking Adaptor for docking of new commercial crew vehicles, currently under development in the US, but also the BEAM inflatable habitat, which paves the way for future commercial space stations.
Read our feature about Tim Peake and his mission.