UK Astronaut’s “Principia” ISS Mission to Highlight Educational Activities from Space


National pride is at a “Peake” in the UK as European Space Agency Astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI, counts down the days until he launches from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS). The English-born Peake — a former British Army Air Corps officer and helicopter pilot — will lift off on board a Soyuz spacecraft on December 15 as part of the Expedition 46 crew. His time on station will be devoted to the Principia Mission and will dedicate part of his schedule in space to educational activities for youngsters on Earth. The mission is named for Isaac Newton’s text, Philosophæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). Peake will spend 6 months in orbit on board the ISS, mostly working in the Columbus laboratory module.

“I’m extremely proud to say that Mission Pricipia is the largest and most ambitious educational outreach program of any European space mission,” Peake said in a video thanking the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, the UK Space Agency, the ESA, and others on a long list of supporting educational institutions and organizations. As part of Peake’s educational efforts, a pair of Astro-Pi computers will head separately to the ISS for use in various sensor experiments. “Send your code to me, and I’ll run it for you onboard the space station,” Peake has invited. He’ll also be taking along some seeds to grow in space to compare the results with similar seeds grown on Earth.

“Also, I’m really looking forward to talking to many schools using the Amateur Radio system that we have on board the space station,” Peake said, referring to ARISS, in a mission overview video posted on the Principia Mission website. Initial ARISS school contacts with Peake at the mic will take place in January.

Part of the UK team, including Ciaran Morgan, M0XTD, Graham Shirville, G3VZV, and Noel Matthews, G8GTZ, will be joined by RSGB General Manager Graham Coomber, G0NBI, at the “Principia Partners” booth for the official Tim Peake launch party at the London Science Museum.

According to the mission website, “Tim wants to use his mission inspire people, especially children, to develop their interest in science and to learn more about the career opportunities that it opens up.”

Accompanying Peake on his ride to the ISS will be NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, KE5UDN, and Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, RK3DUP. While on station, Peake will carry out an intensive schedule of European and international experiments, in addition to numerous educational activities.

The 43-year-old Peake is the first British citizen to be selected as an astronaut by ESA. He began his basic astronaut training in 2009 and graduated the following year.

A running enthusiast, Peake next spring will become the first man to run a marathon in space when he takes on the challenge of the Digital Virgin Money London Marathon on April 24. Peake will run the 26.2 miles on a treadmill as the ISS orbits the earth. He will at the same time more than 37,000 runners set off from Greenwich to cover the famous marathon distance on Earth.