Living in space is “out of this world”, according to Tim Peake – but the British astronaut still misses the green, green grass of home.
Speaking in his first live TV interview from the International Space Station, Major Peake spoke of his sense of wonder every time he gazes out from the space station’s “cupola” observation dome
He was answering a question from Niamh, aged seven, and Matthew, aged nine, who asked him to reveal his most “out of this world” moment since blasting into space last December.
Maj Peake replied: “You know, the whole experience has been out of this world, from the moment I first saw planet Earth through my Soyuz window just after we’d been inserted into orbit.
“I have to say every time I go to the cupola and look out – that’s the most out of this world moment. It’s always different, whether it’s a moon setting or a sunrise – the magnificent views.”
But then, replying to a question from Sky News presenter Jane Secker, he confessed to feeling Earth-sick and yearning for the sights and sensations of nature.
Asked if there was anything he missed, apart from friends and family, he said: “That’s something I’ve thought about recently.
“It is the fresh air, of course, and being out of doors, but it’s also the colour green .. we don’t have the colour green on the space station.”
In the interview broadcast on Sky News, the astronaut spent 20 minutes answering questions emailed and tweeted by fans on Earth, as well as members of an audience at the National Space Centre in Leicester.
One surprise turned out to be the maddening way things get lost in microgravity.
“It can be very frustrating at times,” said Maj Peake.
“I’ve certainly lost a few things; thankfully most of them I’ve found again, but it’s very easy to put things down and to turn around and then they’re not there .. Everything floats away. So Velcro is everywhere on the space station to try to keep control of things.”
Training for weightless conditions consists of parabolic flights in which an aircraft climbs at a 45 degree angle before pitching steeply down in a dive.
But each “parabola” only lasts 30 seconds, and really learning how to adapt to microgravity has to take place on the job, said Maj Peake.
He said: “It’s certainly a lot of fun .. After a couple of weeks up here you really do get used to living and working in microgravity, and your brain gets used to it as well.”
Inverting himself so that his head was at the bottom of the TV screen, he added: “I can work in any orientation I like, really, and it doesn’t matter whether I talk to you upside down or the right way up, my brain just kind of flicks the picture.”
Maj Peake, who has completed three of his scheduled six months in space, was speaking with a large Union Jack behind him.
In other questions, he was asked how the space station crew dealt with emergencies such as a fire or being hit by debris, what he thought about setting up a moon base and keeping orbital space free of junk, and how far it might be possible to hit a golf ball in space.
Presenter Jane posed a “tougher” question, whether Maj Peake thought the huge cost of the International Space Station could be justified.
She asked: “It is billions. Do you really think it’s worth it?”
Maj Peake replied: “I absolutely do think it’s worth it. Not forgetting that up here it’s not one country that’s involved in this, it’s multiple countries.
“It’s a huge international collaboration .. We’ve been doing research up here since the year 2000 when the International Space Station was first occupied.
“It now has a life extension to 2024. That’s a fantastic working laboratory doing great research, and of course money that’s spent in space .. it’s jobs for the economy; it’s pushing the space industry to its limits.
“The space industry in the UK alone is one of the fastest growing sectors. So it’s worth it for so many different reasons.”