Museums celebrate UK astronaut Tim Peake space launch
Institutions in South Kensington will host a day of events celebrating the launch of British astronaut Tim Peake.
On 15 December, Peake will embark on a five-month mission with the European Space Agency (ESA), becoming the first Briton to visit the International Space Station.
As part of celebrations taking place across the UK, organisations including the Natural History Museum, Imperial College London and the Royal College of Music will run space-themed activities throughout the day, culminating in a late-night event at the Science Museum.
Peake says he hopes the mission will rekindle children's enthusiasm for science and space travel:
'One of the ways I’ll judge the success of the mission is by how it inspires the younger generation. We’re trying to get them interested in science, technology, engineering and maths.'
As part of a nationwide programme of events supported by the UK Space Agency and ESA, the Natural History Museum will host a programme of space-themed activities for schools on the day of the launch.
Museum planetary scientist Dr Ashley King will lead a series of sessions, giving school groups the opportunity to step into scientists' shoes by examining, analysing and classifying meteorites from the collection.
Elsewhere in the Museum, children will have the chance to hold specimens, meet scientists, and write messages to Peake at a drop-in 'space station'.
In the evening the Science Museum will host a celebration of the launch, beginning with a screening of the first footage of Peake on the International Space Station at 18.30.
After the screening, Natural History Museum scientists will be present at the event, showcasing specimens from the Museum's space collections and presenting a talk on the Barwell meteorite - the largest recorded meteorite to hit Britain.
Peake and his crewmates will launch from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, flying under the mission name Principia.
Named after Isaac Newton's treatise on physics, the Principia mission will see the crew performing over 250 experiments encompassing physiology, biology, solar physics and other disciplines.
Peake hopes that the mission will inspire people - especially children - to develop an interest in science and the career opportunities it opens up:
'What excites me is that after a gap of 24 years since Helen Sharman flew to the Mir space station, the Union Flag is going to be flown in space again. Which means that there's nothing to stop the schoolkids in Great Britain today being among the first men and women to set foot on Mars in the future.'