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Back down to earth for a hug with mum

Bumpy landing for space adventurer Peake as gust of wind tips capsule over

By John von Radowitz

British astronaut Tim Peake was welcomed home by his mum and dad yesterday after his six-month space mission.

His parents Nigel and Angela were both at Cologne airport to greet their son after he touched down.

Major Peake is set to give his first press conference since returning to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).

At tomorrow's briefing at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, Peake (44) will describe the fiery descent from orbit, answer questions about his physical condition, and assess his 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 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 G-force of five times normal earth gravity. After a journey lasting less than an hour, the Soyuz TMA-19M module parachuted down to a remote spot on the vast Kazakhstan steppe to make a 'bull's eye' landing.

One second before touch down, a burst of fire from six retro rockets reduced the impact speed to 3mph.

Peake was the second crew member to be lifted out of the capsule, which was rolled on to its side 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 he was contemplating a personal treat - "pizza and cold beer".

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