Tim Peake becomes first British astronaut to take a space walk

World Friday 15/January/2016 19:08 PM
By: Times News Service
Tim Peake becomes first British astronaut to take a space walk

London/Frankfurt/Shanghai: Tim Peake became the first astronaut representing Britain to carry out a space walk when he left the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, generating huge interest back in his homeland.
"Good luck to @astro_timpeake on today's space walk. The country will be watching you make history," Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter.
Peake, 43, a former army major, blasted off to the ISS as part of a six-month mission for the European Space Agency (ESA) in December, becoming the first Briton in space since Helen Sharman travelled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991 and the first to do so under a British flag.
Peake's mission has attracted widespread attention in Britain with his space walk beamed live on news channels.
The ESA said the space walk would last about six hours as Peake and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra replaced a failed Solar Shunt Unit, which transfers electrical power generated by solar panels.
Meanwhile, a village on the moon could be a reality by 2030, if the head of the European Space Agency gets his way.
Jan Woerner has outlined a vision for replacing the ISS, when it is eventually taken out of service, with a lunar "village" of structures made by robots and 3D printers that use moon dust as a building material.
"I looked into the requirements I see for a project after ISS. As of today, I see the moon village as the ideal successor of the International Space Station for (space) exploration," Woerner said at a news briefing in Paris on Friday.
Woerner made a moon mission a central project when he took the helm of the ESA last July, saying it was a key step on the way to humans eventually flying to Mars.
Various nations and space-faring institutions - like the ESA, NASA, Russia and China - could participate in a moon village project, contributing technology and astronauts to help prepare for a mission to Mars and continue scientific exploration into physics and biology currently done on the ISS.
"If someone else comes up with a better idea, so be it... But so far there is no competing proposal on the table," Woerner said.
The United States said in 2014 it wanted to keep the ISS running until at least 2024, pushing back decommissioning of the station by four years.
But Russia has been looking at going it alone and creating its own orbital station, and some European nations that are members of the ESA have raised questions over whether the cost of operating the ISS for four more years would be worthwhile.
"We will make sure that we explain to member states that the value of the space station is there and that ESA should continue (being involved)... The value of the space station is not in question for me," Woerner said.
Meanwhile, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that China plans to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018, marking another milestone in its ambitious space programme.
China has launched a new round of work focused on lunar exploration, coming about two years after it made the first "soft landing" on the moon since 1976 with the Chang'e-3 craft and its Jade Rabbit rover.
Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon, that is never visible from earth, but none has landed on it.
A new probe, the Chang'e-4, is similar to the Chang'e-3 but can carry a bigger payload, Xinhua quoted Liu Jizhong, head of the science, technology and defense industry administration's lunar exploration centre, as saying late on Thursday.
The craft will study geological conditions on the far side of the moon, Liu said.
Advancing China's space programme has been a priority of leaders, with President Xi Jinping calling for China to establish itself as a space power.
China insists that its space programme is for peaceful purposes.
However, the US Defence Department has highlighted China's increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.
In March, the Chinese government said it would open up its lunar exploration programme to companies rather than simply relying on the state-owned sector as before, hoping to boost technological breakthroughs.
Xinhua said China sent "a letter of intent of cooperation" on its latest mission to foreign countries in early 2015. It was not clear if any had signed up.