It all started a long time ago, when I was eight. You see, I have always dreamed of being an astronaut; I would have given anything, just to be in a space shuttle, on my way to space. After a long time of disappointment, applying and waiting, I finally got the chance. Anyway, I have a lot to tell you before we get to space!
When I was at school, I loved learning about space and space travel. After education (high school, university and all,) I joined the Royal Air Force; at the time, it felt like the closest way I could simulate my dream. I worked exceptionally hard and soon qualified to be a helicopter pilot. Finally, the day of selection came. We gathered in the main hall of the astronaut training camp, seated nervously to await our fate, hardly daring to breathe. As the first person was picked, I thought for a moment; would all this keeping fit, applying for the ESA astronaut stuff and living in caves pay off? My vision went to a blur. My wife nudged me urgently. I then realised…I had been selected.
I stood up as the ringing of applause crashed over the room like a wave. I was going to space!
Blast off finally came. Tucked up in insulated space suits, extra boosters were added to the Soyuz rocket space shuttle, (in case we broke down after we left our atmosphere.) Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra were reassuring. As we ascended the space shuttle ramp, a feeling of excitement as I had never known it washed over me. As we took our seats, and were strapped in, that feeling multiplied 100 fold. As mission control boomed the count down, my pulse was racing, my feet tingling and my stomach churning. Mission control thundered: “BLAST OFF” The smell of burning filled my senses; roaring explosions burst outside like fireworks. That was it. We were off, it was magical. A few hours after blast off, we were in the dark rounds of space. Suddenly the shuttle came to an alarming HALT. We glided into the brightly lit ISS. Perversely, we tucked in to our breakfast on ISS, having just had lunch on earth. Sleeping conditions weren’t great. We had to choose between a sleeping bag on the wall or a hole in the ground with a glass cover over it, it reeked, the rank smell of stiff blue sheets. I picked the sleeping bag (for obvious reasons.) Even though it was lumpy and unstable, it felt amazing to be there. I was overjoyed to have arrived safely. The days blurred into one.
We were literally in another world, thoughts of earth 240,000 miles away.
Returning, forced my body to deal with gravity. Scott told me that it takes a year or so to get used to gravity again. I wonder if life on earth will ever feel the same without the wonder of knowing life in space.