Tim Peake’s passion as he’s describing seeing the Earth from space for the first time is contagious.
“The first time I saw the Earth was just a few moments after insertion into orbit,” he tells Christiane Amanpour in an interview from the International Space Station.
As he looked out of his window from inside the rocket, Peake “saw planet Earth shortly followed by a moonrise and it was just the most incredible feeling to be in orbit and see the planet for the first time. It was spectacular.”
Peake, a former Army aviator and helicopter test pilot, is Britain’s first astronaut aboard the International Space Station, where he’s due to finish his six-month mission on June 18.
“As a small boy, I looked up to the stars and often wondered about our place in the universe and the solar system and was fascinated by space.”
“And I was able to fulfill that early-boyhood dream of becoming an astronaut.”
The father of two spends much of his time conducting scientific research that he seems equally excited about, including flame-combustion experiments and medical research in microgravity, which he thinks “is fascinating research and will have huge benefits for people back on Earth.”
Peake, 44, really is making the most of his time, having ran the London Marathon strapped to a treadmill, presented Adele with a Brit award and held a science lesson for 300,000 schoolkids. He also ventured out of the ISS earlier this year, carrying out his first spacewalk.
“We’re really in a very privileged position up here, we have an enormous responsibility with regard to the science that we’re trying to do, and so we just have to try and be as professional as possible.”
As an astronaut, what does he think the potential effect of Britain leaving the EU could have on his job and science? Amanpour asks.
“It won’t actually have any effect on what we do with regards to the European Space Agency and this international partnership,” he explains, adding that cooperation is one of the “strongest messages” of the ISS.
“But what I would say is of course we can do things in space that we couldn’t possibly do as one nation and this is the model that we need to take forward – certainly when we’re looking at going to the moon, and further to Mars and ultimately to explore our solar system.”