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A passion for adventure

​​Born in Chichester, England, on 7 April 1972, Tim had a passion for adventure from an early age. The Cub Scouts and school Cadet Force gave him a taste for the outdoors and he was never happier as a young boy than when he was hiking, kayaking or climbing.

​At the age of 13, Tim’s dream of becoming a pilot became a reality when he took control of an aircraft for the first time. It sparked a passion for flying that has been a driving force throughout his career. By the time he was 18, he had already flown numerous solo sorties and been awarded a coveted position to join the British Army Air Corps.

Facing new challenges

​Before attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Tim spent an arduous three months on an expedition to Alaska. Working on environmental and sustainability projects not long after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he kayaked Prince William Sound and learned ice climbing and winter mountaineering near Denali National Park.

Tim embraced the tough regime at the Royal Military Academy and despite being one of the youngest officer recruits he was singled out to lead his Platoon and later awarded the Stockwell Sword as the Army Air Corps’ best junior officer.

Put to the test

​As a young second lieutenant, Tim’s leadership skills were put to the test on the troubled streets of Northern Ireland, serving as a Platoon Commander on attachment to the Royal Green Jackets prior to commencing his flying training.

He was a natural in the air, absorbing every detail of training and longing to expand his knowledge with each flight. He gained his Army Flying Wings in 1994 and was awarded best student on his course.

First overseas posting

​Tim’s first overseas posting took him to Germany, where he commanded a flight of reconnaissance helicopters. These small, single engine helicopters were fast, agile and designed to be flown below the treetops. He gained a wealth of experience in a short space of time, also serving in Kenya, Cyprus, Canada and returning once again to Northern Ireland.

​He also trained as a combat search and rescue instructor, prior to spending a challenging six months flying on operations in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in 1996 as part of the NATO unit sent to enforce the peace and provide humanitarian support in the aftermath of the Bosnian War.

Military flying instructor

​Whilst his peers were following a more traditional officer career path, Tim fought to become a flying instructor – a move that would shape his future and ultimately lead to him becoming an astronaut. After a rewarding year teaching students the art of military flying, Tim was selected for an exchange posting to the 1st US Cavalry Division in Texas, flying the fearsome Apache attack helicopter.

Highly sophisticated and technically demanding, the Apache appealed hugely to Tim’s thirst for new challenges. His time with the US Army taught him the importance of international cooperation and the benefits of forging strong partnerships. On his return to the UK, Tim was ideally placed to be part of a small team responsible for training the first British aircrew how to fly and fight this impressive machine. His dedication to introducing this vital capability was rewarded with a Commander-in-Chief’s Certificate for Meritorious Service.

Test Pilot

Promoted to Major and with well over 2000 hours of flying experience, Tim’s career was about to take an important turn. He applied for the Empire Test Pilot’s School at Boscombe Down and, following a gruelling selection process, was accepted onto the prestigious course. As someone who left school aged 18 with three unexceptional A levels, Tim did not have the greatest academic start in life. However, he is a testament to the fact that with hard work and determination anything is possible. He enrolled in evening classes to study mathematics and attained a Bachelor of Science degree in flight dynamics whilst also studying for his test pilot qualification.

Some of the most demanding flying that Tim has accomplished was whilst working as a test pilot. This included several high-risk trials on the Apache helicopter, taking the aircraft beyond limits previously flown and introducing over twenty urgently required modifications to support operations in Afghanistan. His role as a test pilot also saw him deploy to Afghanistan in support of Special Forces operations.

Astronaut selection

​After nearly 18 years of military service, Tim left the Army in 2009 to work as a senior test pilot for AgustaWestland (now Leonardo Helicopters). At the same time, having been surprised to see an online recruiting advertisement from the European Space Agency (ESA), he underwent a rigorous year-long astronaut selection with over 8000 other hopeful candidates. Previously, UK citizens had been unable to apply to become ESA astronauts and so Tim leapt at this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Tim was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009 along with five classmates and started training in September that year. He had to learn Russian language in addition to understanding the science and engineering of spaceflight. Astronaut training covered a plethora of topics as diverse as dentistry, minor surgical procedures and survival training. Parabolic flights, aptly nicknamed the ‘vomit comet’, gave astronauts their first taste of weightlessness and underwater training allowed crews to perform simulated spacewalks for hours at a time, whilst the centrifuge prepared them for the punishing g-forces of launch and re-entry.

Underwater training

Teamwork & communication

Teamwork and communication are vital skills for any successful space mission. Tim spent seven days exploring a cave network deep underground Sardinia with four other astronauts from Russia, Japan, Europe and the United States. In additional to understanding cultural differences, this environment allowed the astronauts to develop their leadership skills under stressful conditions.

Simulated missions underwater allow crews to experience the isolation of a space mission and to develop operational skills. Tim spent twelve days living in Aquarius, an underwater habitat off the coast of Florida, as part of a team of six NASA ‘aquanauts’. Their mission was to explore the surface of an asteroid (the ocean floor), and conduct deep water dives each day to assess the tools and techniques required for a future mission.

Principia mission

​​Tim was assigned to a long-duration mission to the International Space Station in May 2013. After further training with his crewmates Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko, and many months spent in Russia, the United States, Japan, Canada and Germany he launched to space on 15 December 2015. Tim was the first British ESA astronaut to visit the International Space Station. His Principia mission was an eventful and busy six months in space. In the first month, Tim conducted a spacewalk to repair the Station’s power supply. Other highlights of his mission saw him drive a rover across a simulated Mars terrain from space and he helped dock two spacecraft.

Tim took part in over 250 scientific experiments during his mission, which also focussed on educational outreach, engaging more than 2 million schoolchildren across Europe in over 30 projects during his time in space. As an ambassador for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Tim is passionate about inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers. He also ran the London marathon using the Station’s treadmill in support of The Prince’s Trust, for which he is an ambassador.

Cherished moments

One of Tim’s most cherished moments was having the opportunity to talk with the late Professor Stephen Hawking from the International Space Station. During their hour-long video call, they discussed many topics from their favourite music to quantum physics and the future of humanity, whilst marvelling at the spectacular view of Earth from space. Tim also had the opportunity to talk with another hero of his whilst in space, Doctor of Astrophysics and rock legend Brian May.

Since returning to Earth on 18 June 2016, Tim has become an ambassador for the Scouts. He helped launch a Scouts Scientists Activity Badge in March 2019 and is very active in promoting the Scouts strong ethos of teaching ‘skills for life’.

Royal appointment

​​​Tim was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours for services to space research and scientific education.

He is married with two sons and enjoys spending time outdoors with his family hiking, exploring and having more adventures.