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Tim Peake 'truly elated' to be back on Earth after six-month space station stint

Published 19/06/2016

British astronaut Tim Peake will on Tuesday give his first press conference since returning to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).

At the briefing being held at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, Major Peake, 44, will describe the fiery descent from orbit, answer questions about his physical condition, and assess his six month mission.

During his 186 days on the ISS the former helicopter test pilot and father of two participated in more than 250 scientific experiments, performed a space walk, ran the London Marathon on a treadmill, and inspired more than a million schoolchildren with educational outreach activities.

His achievements earned him a Queen's Birthday honour that was out of this world - Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for "extraordinary service beyond our planet".

On Saturday Maj Peake and crew mates American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko made the trip back to Earth in a tiny Soyuz space capsule measuring just over six feet across.

As they plunged through the atmosphere friction on the craft's forward-facing heat shield slowed its speed from 17,398mph (28,000kph) to 514mph (827kph) and raised the temperature to a scorching 1,600C.

The rapid deceleration pushed the crew back into their shock-absorbing seats with a force of up to five gee - five times normal Earth gravity.

After a journey lasting less than an hour, the Soyuz TMA-19M "descent module" parachuted down to a remote spot on the vast Kazakhstan steppe to make a "bulls eye" landing. One second before touch down, a burst of fire from six retro rockets beneath the capsule reduced the impact speed to 3mph.

Maj Peake was the second crew member to be lifted out of the capsule, which was rolled onto its side after landing by a gust of wind.

Asked how he felt by waiting TV crews, he said: "Great, thanks. It was incredible - the best ride I've been on ever.

"I'm just truly elated. The smells of the Earth are so strong. It's just wonderful to feel the fresh air.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the family now."

He added that spending 186 days on the space station was a "life changing experience" and said he was contemplating a personal treat - "pizza and cold beer".

Maj Peake was able to speak briefly on a mobile phone, provided to allow contact with members of his family.

He and the rest of the crew were then given medical checks and helicoptered to the major city of Karaganda, almost 300 miles away, before leaving Kazakhstan.

The British astronaut, who lives in Houston, Texas with his wife Rebecca and sons Oliver, four, and Thomas, seven, was the only crew member to travel to Cologne, where European Space Agency (Esa) astronaut activities are located.

Maj Peake was the first British astronaut to be sent to the ISS by Esa.

His mission was named Principia after Sir Isaac Newton's landmark work describing the laws of motion and gravity.

During his time in space he worked up to 14 hours a day, participating in more than 250 experiments devised by scientists from around the world.

He said the highlight of his mission was the space walk he conducted with Colonel Kopra in January to repair electrical components on the outside of the space station.

Maj Peake was originally scheduled to return at the beginning of June, but his homecoming was delayed when the launch of the replacement crew was pushed back.

On July 7 another trio of space travellers - American Kate Rubins, Russian Anatoly Ivanishin and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi - will fly to the space station from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will travel in a new upgraded version of the Soyuz, the MS-01, which has improved computer and avionics systems.

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