Tuesday 24 April 2018

British astronaut Tim Peake: Space marathon first is a 'personal ambition'

British astronaut Tim Peake
British astronaut Tim Peake

The British astronaut set to become the first man to run a marathon in space has said he is not doing it for the record but because the challenge is "part of who I am".

Tim Peake will take on the 26.2 miles at the same time as the London Marathon in April - and he will have a video feed of the London course to make him feel like he is really there.

He is due to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 15 and will stay in the International Space Station (ISS) for 173 days until June 5 next year.

He said he was not motivated by becoming the first man to complete a marathon in space, which he will do in support of the Prince's Trust, the charity set up by the Prince of Wales to help disadvantaged young people.

"I am not really one for trying to make firsts," Major Peake said. "I just wanted to do it because it is a real personal ambition of mine and I am delighted that I am able to do it in support of the Prince's Trust, which is a wonderful charity and one which I very much support.

"I think it is going to be a wonderful event, it is going to be great to be able to run the London Marathon in space and it is going to be a highlight of the mission."

A seasoned runner back on planet Earth, Major Peake completed the London Marathon in 1999, finishing in three hours and 18 minutes - but he does not expect to beat that time.

"My overring memory of running the 1991 London Marathon was the atmosphere," he said. "It was such fun and I had no idea that it would really carry me through the whole distance.

"Of course I will be a bit more isolated running in the space station being the only one running up there at the time but that is why I am really excited about the app because that will enable me to really feel like I am taking part in the actual event."

Unlike the wet and windy conditions he is used to braving in England, Major Peake will have to contend with temperatures of 21C to 22C on board the ISS.

He will be doing two hours of exercise every day in space, in a bid to fight off the muscle atrophy and bone density loss which happen in conditions of weightlessness.

After returning to Earth, he and the two other astronauts, Russian Yuri Malenchenko and Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra, will have six months of rehabilitation to re-tune their bodies for living on Earth.

He said: "The mission, in addition to training for the London Marathon, is to keep me fit and healthy and prepare me for coming back to Earth."

Major Peake said a lack of fresh food is a traditional problem for astronauts, but thinks he will be able to enjoy a bacon sandwich on the morning of the marathon.

He also said the latest Star Wars film will be on the astronauts' list of movies to take with them into space.

When asked if his family were anxious about his trip, former military pilot Peake said: "It's really part of who I am. It would be very unnatural if they were not nervous about me going to space and I appreciate that, but at the same time they are very supportive.

"There is risk going into space - it is not easy - but in my previous job as a test pilot I was taking high-risk flight trails on a number of occasions so on a day-to-day basis I was probably exposing myself to more risk as a military pilot than I have done as an astronaut."

Hugh Brasher, event director of the London Marathon, said: "Tim's mission will undoubtedly inspire a generation of children to explore science and space. We hope that this extraordinary marathon run in space will also inspire that generation to run."

Earlier this week it was announced that Major Peake's mission had been extended for a month, making his scheduled stay the sixth longest undertaken by a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut.

The run-up to the launch will include physical training and medical examinations, as well as reviewing plans for the six-hour flight to the space station.

During these preparations the crew will have to minimise contact with other people to avoid the risk of falling ill and spreading infections.

The Principia mission will involve experiments including growing blood vessels, protein crystals and rocket leaves in weightless conditions, and investigating the properties of metals.

Press Association

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