British astronaut Tim Peake has given a vivid account of his “really exciting ride” back to Earth and said he would return to space “in a heartbeat”.
Speaking at his first press conference since leaving the International Space Station and landing in Kazakhstan on Saturday, he also said he was “feeling fantastic”.
Major Peake described a series of adrenaline- pumping events including his tiny Soyuz capsule “tumbling” in space, watching a pyrotechnic display of sparks and flames during the fiery descent through the Earth’s atmosphere, and the sensation of “falling back to Earth” as the building G-force pushed him back in his seat.
He also spoke of his “dream” of going to the Moon, his hope that the UK continues to fund manned space missions — and his relief at using a gravity- assisted Earth toilet at last.
The 44-year-old father-of-two returned to Earth from a six-month European Space Agency mission on the International Space Station with American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.
All three men are now undergoing an intense programme of rehabilitation and tests to help them re-adjust to Earth gravity and show scientists how their bodies have stood the strain of 186 days in space.
Major Peake spoke in a packed briefing room at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, where the Esa’s astronaut activities are based.
He said re-adjusting to being back on Earth had been harder and taken longer than adapting to life in space, but added: “It’s amazing how quickly the human body adapts to a new environment. Even just after three days, I’m feeling fantastic.”
He had been keeping fit with cycling, cross trainer, and balance exercises, and had undergone a series of medical procedures including a muscle biopsy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and bone density test.
Asked if he would return to space, given the opportunity, he said: “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” adding that he had already squared that possibility with his wife Rebecca who was “extremely supportive”.
He said he would be grateful for any mission, but top of his wish list was the moon.
“Another long duration mission — absolutely,” said Major Peake. “I think a dream would have to be a lunar exploration mission. I don’t think any astronaut would turn that down.”
Major Peake laughed when he was asked what it was like to use an Earth toilet again.
“That is one of the things we look forward to. Gravity is horrible when you come back to Earth, except in a few cases, and (when) using the loo, gravity is your friend.”
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