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Tim Peake, a British astronaut, is currently on a six month mission aboard the International Space Station. He launched with crewmates Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and after a six and a half hour journey aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, they docked with the ISS.
Whilst in orbit, some 200 miles above us, he is conducting many scientific research experiments, many of which can only really be achieved in the free-fall zero gravity environment aboard the orbiting station. These include studying and investigating the properties of metals using a levitation device, astrobiology research into how organisms survive the harshness of space when mounted outside of the space station through to using artificial Martian soil to analyse its viability for plant growth, which will help us to understand more about how habitable the surface of Mars may be for future exploration.
Credit: Tim Peake Website
The maintenance of the space station is down to the astronauts, there’s no calling a plumber or electrician from space. On 15 January, just one month after he launched, Tim Peake was required to undertake a spacewalk to fix a faulty power unit with colleague Tim Kopra. To do this, the astronauts had to don their suits and head outside of the space station to quite literally take a walk into space. Something which people have been successfully doing now for over 50 years. Unfortunately due to a little water in the helmet of Tim Kopra, the spacewalk had to end early, showing that despite over half a century, this kind of endeavour is still risky. However their key goal in the space walk, to fix the faulty power unit, happened before this unfortunate incident, so the astronauts achieved their primary goal.
Tim Peake continues to perform daily experiments and tasks aboard the ISS, and he plans to run the London Marathon from orbit on the treadmill which keeps the astronauts fit and their muscles strong in a weightless environment. He has also been talking via radio to many schools across the UK, showing that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is not just about plant growth in space on this mission.
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