Amazing astronaut Tim Peake tells us about scoffing cakes in space, drinking his own wee and why aliens are definitely real! Learn all this and more in our Tim Peake interview…

 

Who is Tim Peake?

Name: Tim Peake
Age: 48
Famous for: Being the first British ESA astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS)
Previous jobs: Tim was a Major in the British Army before becoming a helicopter test pilot

Tim Peake interview
Tim ran the London Marathon while he was in space – using the ISS treadmill!

 

Tim Peake interview

NGK: Hi Tim! What does blastoff feel like? Is it scary?

Tim: Launch is honestly the most exciting thing ever! By the time you get to sit at the top of a rocket you’ve been training for six years and have dealt with all your fear, so you’re just bursting to get going. There’s this immense power underneath you and, as the rocket lifts off, the feeling of acceleration and the noise are unbelievable!

 

How long did it take you to reach the International Space Station (ISS)?

After just 8 minutes 48 seconds we reach 200km (space starts at 100km) – and go into orbit around Earth. There’s an amazing sensation as everything calms down and goes quiet, and you experience weightlessness. The craft then has to get up to 400km, where the ISS is in orbit, and dock. This takes about six hours, and four orbits of the planet.

Tim Peake interview
Anyone can juggle in space!

How did the other astronauts greet you when you arrived at the ISS?

It’s such a warm feeling when you meet your crew mates again – we all trained together down on the ground so we know each other very well. When we first arrive there are lots of jobs to do – unpacking, putting vital cargo in the freezers and fridges, and a press conference. But then there’s a moment where that all stops, the cameras are switched off and all six of us just go and have dinner in the Russian segment – that’s when it’s a bit of a party!

 

WHAT IS THE ISS?

The International Space Station is a huge microgravity laboratory in orbit 400km above Earth. Built in stages, the first component launched in 1998 and astronauts from all over the world have been living on board since 2000.

 

What was the first thing you ate in space?

My commander had put a bacon sarnie in the food warmer for me while we were waiting to board!

Yum! Did you wash it down with a nice cup of tea?

I wouldn’t say nice! Tea comes in foil pouches with creamer and sugar inside. You add hot water and it goes through various stages – it’s very weak and hot to begin with, half-way through it’s alright, and at the end you’re basically sucking on a tea bag!

Tim Peake interview
Experiments on the ISS are designed to benefit people back on Earth. Here, Tim tests his airways to help people with asthma.

Ew! What’s it like to see the Earth from space?

What really strikes you is what a beautiful planet it is! First you notice the blues and greens, and the orange of the deserts. And the longer you’re up there, the more detail you start to pick out – glaciers, volcanoes and mountain ranges. In the daytime, you don’t see any signs of human habitation, but at night the lights of towns and cities come on and it’s exactly the opposite.

 

DID YOU KNOW…?

Astronauts are like human guinea pigs – loads of the experiments they do are on their own bodies!

 

The ISS goes around the Earth once every 92 minutes. That’s so quick! Does it seem fast when you’re on board?

Oh yeah it does – so fast! But what’s really spooky is there’s no sound. With transport on Earth, there are noises or vibrations, so you’re aware there’s some force that’s making you go fast. But on the ISS you’re just gliding, silently, at 27,580kmph! It takes a while to get used to – at the start of the mission I wanted to take some photos of the UK. We were over Brazil at the time so I went and had lunch thinking I’d have ages, but by the time I got back we were already over the Himalayas and I’d completely missed northern Europe!

Tim Peake interview
Tim gets ready for a spacewalk!

Haha! Did your training prepare you for the reality of life in space?

There’s an almost exact replica of the ISS at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA, and we’d go there at 7am and run through a day in space as if we were really there. It was so useful. The most fun part was the spacewalk training – we’d spend six hours underwater in our suits in a swimming pool practising!

 

During your 186 days in space you conducted over 250 experiments! Which one was your fave?

There was a tray of stickyaerogel‘ that had been outside the ISS for a year capturing tiny micro-meteorites that are flying around the solar system. We brought it inside to analyse and were excited to find organic compounds – so the building blocks of life. Potentially this is the same stuff that seeded life on Earth!

Tim Peake interview
Spacewalk lessons in the practice pool!

Do you get any time to relax between all the experiments?

You don’t get much – you’re up there to work. So we work hard! On Sundays we’d talk to our families for a bit on video calls, or take photos, and there’s a guitar and a keyboard up there. On special occasions the crew might watch a movie together – we saw Star Wars The Force Awakens! We even watched Alien, a horror film set in space!

 

Scary! Talking of aliens, do you think there might be some out there?

Absolutely, yeah! We’ve already identified with a telescope thousands of planets that we think could sustain life of some form or other. And that’s just life that we are basing on ourselvescarbon-based life forms that need water to survive.

Tim Peake interview
Spacewalking was the most challenging and risky part of Tim’s mission – but also the most fun!

Will we ever meet them?

The two things that are against us are time and distance. If our short time span doesn’t overlap with any other intelligent life form’s time span, we could miss each other by billions of years! And we may be so far away from them that we we’d never be able to make contact anyway.

 

DID YOU KNOW…?

As part of his astronaut training, Tim spent seven nights in a cave and 12 days underwater! (Which prepared him well for lockdown, too!)

 

A new fragrance has just launched that’s said to smell like space. What on earth does space smell like?!

It’s not particularly pleasant! Some people say It’s like burnt toast or BBQ beef, but to me it smells like scorched electricity – like a spark of static when you take off a jumper. We don’t smell it that often – only if we’re returning from a space walk and open the airlock – then you suddenly get that whiff of space.

 

How exactly do you go to the toilet in space?! And what happens to the, er, waste?

It’s all about keeping things flowing in the right direction! We have a hose we pee into which sucks the liquid into a container. Then it goes through a brilliant system of filtration and purification and, within about 36 hours, almost 90% of it is back as drinking water!

Tim Peake interview
Tim enjoying some rare downtime!

Wow!

For number twos we have a bag that’s perforated like a tea bag with millions of minuscule holes so that the air can flow through, but no solids. So your waste moves in the right direction. Then we close the bags, pop them into a container and when that’s full it goes into the cargo vehicle which is sent back towards Earth and burns up on re-entry into our atmosphere. So when you’re wishing upon a shooting star, it may actually be…

 

Astronaut poop! Ha! What were the best types of space food you ate?!

In space, food doesn’t sink to the bottom of your stomach, so you feel full more quickly. That makes it harder to maintain your bodyweight, so we’re encouraged to eat more – and there are loads of sweet treats to enjoy. After dinner we have desserts like sticky toffee pie, maple muffin pancakes and rhubarb crumble. They’re all in foil packets that we heat up but they taste fantastic!

 

DID YOU KNOW…?

Spacesuits work as mini Space Stations – they provide oxygen and water and keep astronauts cool and safe from radiation.

 

Yum! In space, you need to exercise everyday. But it’s not because of all the puddings is it?!

No! Because our bodies are so brilliant, they quickly adjust to being in a weightless environment. So rather than getting sick, your body starts changing, turning itself into the perfect body for weightlessness. It doesn’t need muscles, so the muscles become weaker and shrink. It doesn’t need bones, so they lose density. Of course, we don’t want that to happen – we need to remain fit for coming back to Earth – and that’s why we have to exercise, to maintain our heart muscle size, muscle mass and bone density.

Tim Peake interview
Tim travelled back to Earth on this Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft.

When you got back to Earth, how long did it take your body to become normal again?

For the first 48 hours I really didn’t feel very well. I had vertigo, my head was spinning and my balance wasn’t quite right. But once I got used to gravity again I felt fine – I could walk and was strong enough to do everyday activities. But it took about two months to get back to the same level of fitness I had before left – although the flight surgeons say it takes six months. They say that for every day you spend in space you need a day of rehabilitation back on Earth.

 

TOP TIP!

Because sunlight reflects off its solar panels, the ISS is the third brightest object in the night sky and is easy to spot if you’re looking in the right place at the right time. Check out spotthestation.nasa.gov to find out more!

 

And finally, if you could live on any other planet, which would you choose?

Mars! It’s the most fascinating planet in the solar system other than Earth. It’s got massive canyons and huge volcanoes, it once had a liquid ocean, and there’s enough ice on Mars to cover the entire planet in water! I think Mars has got some fascinating stories to tell, and hopefully, in my lifetime, we’ll be able to unlock some of the secrets that the planet holds.

Let’s hope so. Thanks for chatting, Tim!

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