Astrophysicist to visit Kazakhstan to watch astronaut Tim Peake make British space exploration history

Martin Barstow, University Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Science and Engineering and Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will have a front row seat when British astronaut Tim Peake makes history by becoming the first Briton to visit the International Space Station.

Professor Barstow will fly out to mission control in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Friday, to represent the Royal Astronomical Society, of which he has been President since May 2014.

He will be accompanied by a handful of British dignitaries, such as the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport and CEO of the UK Space Agency Dave Parker.

The UK delegates will attend launch briefings, watch the roll out and launch preparation of the Soyuz rocket, have an opportunity to talk to the astronauts (although they will be in quarantine to avoid picking up infections), and see the lift off live on Tuesday 15 December, at 17:03 (11:03 GMT).

Professor Barstow will then follow the flight in mission control, through to the docking with the ISS, and hatch opening at 01:00.

Tim Peake, 43, will now be part of the Principia mission to the International Space Station alongside NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko.

Professor Barstow said: “The Principia mission sends the message that being an astronaut can now be an aspiration for anyone in the UK."

In the video below, Tim Peake gave thanks to the support of the University of Leicester, among other Principia educational partners (1:06).

In response, Professor Barstow said: "We are really pleased to be involved in the education programme of the Principia mission which highlights the continuing strong relationship between the University and the National Space Centre. I would like to publicly thank Tim for his message and expect to be able thank him again in person before his launch into space."