Tim Peake comes out of retirement to 'lead UK's first astronaut mission into space'

25 October 2023, 07:35

Tim Peake
Tim Peake. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Tim Peake is set to come out of retirement to lead a team of British astronauts on a commercial spaceflight.

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Mr Peake, who flew into space in December 2015 and spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS), will lead the UK's first independent space mission.

The flight, which will be run by the UK Space Agency and US private company Axiom Space with support from the European Space Agency (ESA), will send Mr Peake and three British astronauts from the ESA to the ISS, the Telegraph reported.

The team will spend two weeks on the space station. British researchers have been invited to put forward ideas for projects and experiments that the astronauts could carry out.

The collaboration between the UK Space Agency and Axiom was announced by the government on Wednesday.

Read more: Astronauts return to Earth after accidentally spending a year in space and going around the world 6,000 times

Read more: British ex-Paralympian John McFall selected to become first disabled astronaut

Tim Peake after landing in Kazakhstan following six months in space
Tim Peake after landing in Kazakhstan following six months in space. Picture: Getty

Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “This agreement paves the way for UK astronauts to conduct scientific research in orbit, and to inspire millions of us here on Earth.”

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “The prospect of a historic UK mission with Axiom Space has the potential to inspire a whole new generation to reach for the stars, while supporting our efforts to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, so I look forward to seeing the next stage of this exploratory work develop.

“We want to put the UK at the forefront of the global race for commercial space investment, continue to support scientists and engineers to test new technologies and carry out important research and, ultimately, bring the benefits back to people and businesses across the country."

Tim Peake
Tim Peake. Picture: Alamy

Mr Peake, 51, retired from active service as an astronaut in January this year.

But asked recently by LBC presenter James O'Brien on his Full Disclosure podcast about going back to space, Mr Peake said: “Never say never”.

“If you’d asked me that a year ago, I’d have said there perhaps wasn’t a huge amount of opportunities,” he said.

“Actually, right now, I think there’s more opportunity than I’ve even realised. There’s a lot happening in the commercial space sector.”

The other three astronauts are expected to be John McFall, 42, the world’s first disabled astronaut, astronomer Rosemary Coogan, 32, and industrial chemist Meganne Christian, 35.

John McFall, Meganne Christian and Rosemary Coogan are expected to be the three other astronauts selected for the mission
John McFall, Meganne Christian and Rosemary Coogan are expected to be the three other astronauts selected for the mission. Picture: Alamy

Dr Alice Bunn, the president of UKspace, the representative group for the British commercial space sector, said: "Since the first astronauts landed on the Moon over 50 years ago, human spaceflight has captured the imagination of billions of people.

"But space is no longer for the privileged few; we have witnessed incredible growth in the application of space technology and data to everyday lives, and we recognise the immense and specific value of humans being able to push the boundaries of science and technology operating within the unique conditions of space.

"For this reason, the agreement between the UK Space Agency and Axiom Space is an incredibly exciting one, providing the potential to extend the already significant innovation that our UK space sector is spearheading.”

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