Just past 11am on December 15 and there I was, sitting and weeping in my car outside Sainsbury’s. I couldn’t help it, history was being made and thanks to the magic of radio, I was there.
Major Tim Peake isn’t the first Brit in space, that accolade goes to Yorkshire chemist Helen Sharman, but he’s our first astronaut and today he blasted off to the International Space Station for a six-month stay. The Russians are old hands at sending people to space, they don’t have accidents and make few mistakes, and since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, their Soyuz has been the only means of transport to the ISS. But I held my breath, anything could happen.
There was no countdown, they were just off when someone pressed a button or something like that. All I could hear was a massive swooshing, cheering and something calm and cool in Russian. Major Tim was on his way, six years of training, including learning Russian, and a six-hour trip to knock on the ISS hatch and be welcomed by fellow astronauts. I was home to see it on TV, it was well worth another weep.
Space has always fascinated me, my bedroom wall had hand-drawn pictures of the planets, which may or may not have been in the traditional solar system order, hey, I was only eight. I’d look up at the sky and wonder who else was up there, I still do.
I cheered when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and cried when he died three years ago. There are now only eight men alive who have walked on the Moon, they are all in their 80s. I’m not sure my lifetime will ever see man leave Earth’s orbit again, but it’s the work that Tim and others on the ISS are carrying out that may just help that happen.
I’m going to be glued to Tim’s Twitter feed and watching the sky to see him fly past.