Ground Control to Major Tim: The man of many firsts

When school children can ring an astronaut in space, it behooves us to take a moment and appreciate the age in which we are living. That is exactly what happened last week when students at Sandringham School in Hertfordshire, England, made an amateur radio call from the UK to Major Tim Peake aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

A former test pilot and British Army Air Corps officer, Peake has joined a short list of Brits who have traversed the final frontier, and is the first British European Space Agency astronaut to visit the Space Station. Along with the other Tim, American Tim Kopra, Peake is carrying out a six-month long mission, dubbed Principia, where he will complete roughly 265 experiments and engage with schools around the UK. On Friday, he completed his first spacewalk, spending nearly five hours in space making repairs.  NAlthough the space walk, which Nasa calls an Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), was cut short due to water leaking into Kopra’s helmet, the mission was deemed ‘accomplished’.

Major Tim Peake has made his place in history and is known in Britain to be a man of many firsts.  Previous ‘so-called’ Brits in space have either had US or dual citizenship or had been on privately funded or sponsored trips. So, in honour of his accomplishments, The Student presents:

Ten things to pique your interest about Tim Peake, the man of many firsts…

1) He is the first Brit to walk in space. Peake became the first Briton to display the Union flag in a spacewalk after previous British astronauts travelled under an American flag.

2) But first, he had to take a selfie. On Friday, Peake posted a selfie with two other pictures to Twitter, which received 9,000 retweets and 18,000 likes by Saturday morning.

3) So, obviously he is an avid Tweeter. @astro_timpeake has nearly 400k followers, and like many of us, he is always on his phone.  Peake has raised the bar for science communication by tweeting his mission in real time. Plus, he even has his own hashtag …

4) He also fancies himself a bit of a trivia man. You can help Tim pass time by in space by playing along to his #spacerocks Twitter challenge. Using the hashtag, he tweets lyrics for his followers to “name that song”.

5) Which means he is a bit cheeky, like. After missing a ‘good luck’ message from Elton John on Twitter, Peake responded by quoting the song ‘Rocket Man’, one of John’s popular hits about a lonely astronaut in outer space: “Thank you! Sorry for late reply. Was already in spacecraft when your message came in (zero hour 9 am). #spacerocks” – “Zero hour 9am” is referenced in the second line of the song.

6) He helped the world know Edinburgh is the place to be for New Year’s Eve. Even Major Tim knows Hogmanay in Edinburgh beats New York’s Times Square! Just before midnight, Peake beamed a message from the International Space Station to revellers gathered for Princes Street’s Street Party. I did not see London getting a message from Tim, just saying. #blogmanay

7) He does not mind calling his parents, even if they cannot be bothered to take the call. In an effort to be a good and faithful son, Tim remembered to call his parents at the weekend from space. Unfortunately though, his parents had just popped out to the shops for a bit and missed the call, leaving Tim with the answering machine.

8) He believes in aliens. Yeah okay, I got this bit from the Daily Mirror, but Peake is quoted saying he thinks, “single cell life forms might be found on Mars.” So, whatevs, I believe.

9) He made a ‘blast-off’ playlist. OF COURSE HE DID, right?!  The 117 tracks included: Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ and Coldplay’s ‘A Sky Full of Stars’. Tim was too cool for the obvious though: sadly, Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ did not make Peake’s top 10. (RIP Bowie).

10) The Queen follows Tim on Twitter. *drops mic*

This article originally appeared in The Student, a weekly British independent newspaper produced by the University of Edinburgh. The Student is the UK’s oldest student newspaper. Whilst studying my postgraduate degree, I contributed as a Science & Technology writer. 

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