ESA scientists watch first Briton taking off from Baikonur to ISS

Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) watch their colleague Tim Peake’s take-off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan as he becomes the first Briton to visit the International Space Station.

COLOGNE, GERMANY (DECEMBER 15, 2015) (REUTERS) – European Space Agency (ESA) scientists in Cologne watched on Tuesday (December 15) live coverage of the launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying a three-man international crew, including Britain’s first official astronaut, Tim Peake, into space.

“We are very happy to see Tim go to the space station because he is going to continue the hard work that our previous astronauts have done,” said the head of astronaut training, Ruediger Seine.

“Tim is going to be there over five months,” continued Seine. “He has quite a long stay which will enable him to do a lot of experiments, but also a lot of maintenance activities that are required to keep the ISS going.”

He said that from the ESA side there are more than 20 different experiments going up with Peake or arriving while he is on board. “There are also challenging activities for Tim in working with the arriving vehicles that are going to bring cargo up to the station,” Seine told Reuters. “And he will also most likely have a chance to perform an extravehicular activity helping with the maintenance of the space station, to keep it going for an extended presence of humans in orbit.”

The rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-19M spaceship lifted off at 1703 p.m. local time (1103 GMT), beginning its six-hour journey to the International Space Station, and successfully reached its designated orbit about nine minutes later.

Seine said that Peake has trained for a long time for the mission. “For the specific mission that he is on now, the training started roughly two and a half years ago.” But he has started his training some additional two and a half years ago in order to be assigned to the mission, Seine said.

As well as Peake, the crew includes commander Yuri Malenchenko, a former Russian Air Force pilot and a veteran of long-duration space flights, and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

Peake, 43, a former army major who is on a six-month mission for the European Space Agency (ESA), became the first Briton to go into space since Helen Sharman travelled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991.

He is also the first astronaut officially representing the British government and wearing a Union Jack flag on his arm.

The same trio of Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake are set to return to Earth on June 5 next year.