Tim Peake retires from European astronaut corps

British spaceman Tim Peake is leaving his European astronaut mission permanently.

He will instead take up a full-time ambassadorial position for science and space – his job since 2019.

The former British Army Air Force helicopter pilot was named a European Space Agency (Esa) astronaut in 2009.

He flew to the space station for a six-month tour in 2015/2016.

“Being an Esa astronaut has been the most extraordinary experience,” said Tim Peake.

“I have had the privilege of working with an extraordinary team of dedicated people over the past 13 years at the agency, which has been incredibly exciting and rewarding.

“Assuming the role of ambassador for manned spaceflight, I will continue to support Esa and the UK Space Agency with a focus on educational outreach and look forward to the many exciting opportunities ahead.”

In November last year, Esa introduced UK nationals Rosemary Coogan, John McFall and Meganne Christian as new astronaut candidates.

Coogan will begin training in April; McFall is participating in a feasibility study to see if he can fly as a disabled astronaut (a former Paralympic “knife runner”); and Christian is a reserve and can join the corps if someone else leaves.

SLR: Tim Peake with Meganne Christian, Rosemary Coogan and John McFall

SLR: Tim Peake with Meganne Christian, Rosemary Coogan and John McFall

Tim Peake’s election to the Esa astronaut corps in 2009 was a surprise because at the time Britain was not participating in the agency’s manned spaceflight programme. Ultimately, however, that policy has changed, and the UK is now doing its part by helping to fund the program and send experiments to the International Space Station.

As an Esa member state, the UK is also participating in the US space agency Nasa’s Artemis return to the Moon program and will supply equipment for a new lunar space station.

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “Tim Peake is an incredible ambassador for the UK space industry and has played a leading role over the past decade.

“Not only did he conduct important scientific work during the historic Principia mission aboard the International Space Station and while on Earth, he also inspired millions with his passion for space and the opportunities it offered.”

Chichester-born Tim Peake became the second British citizen to go into space, after Helen Sharman, who went to the Mir space station in 1991 on a special program with the Russians. Other Britons flew with NASA but did so as US citizens.

During the Principia mission to the ISS, he became the first person to complete a spacewalk while carrying a Union flag on his shoulder. Stevenage remotely controlled a rover from orbit on the Mars Yard, helped dock two spacecraft and even ran the London marathon on a treadmill.

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