Despite the fact Tim Peake is set to blast-off into space for six months this week, what he’ll enjoy at work is remarkably similar to the rest of us.
As he embarks on the Principia mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday (December 15), Peake will be the first British astronaut in space since Helen Sharman 24 years ago.
The British Space Agency (BSA) became a full partner in the ISS two years ago with an £80 million investment, meaning the Union Jack will fly on the ISS for the first time when Peake boards.
Despite all that, Peake has a simple treat when asked what he’s most looking forward to in space. “School kids have been preparing meals with Heston Blumenthal for me,” he explains. “I know one of them is a bacon sarnie.”
Will he also be able to enjoy a beer on the ISS?
“That’s a no I’m afraid,” he laughs. “It’s something I’ll look forward to when I get back.”
With beer and bacon sarnies dealt with, the main question to ask is whether Britain’s first astronaut since 1991 believes in aliens. “Yes, I believe in life on other planets,” he smiles. “But not little green men.”
Chichester-born Peake’s journey, which he describes as “a dream come true”, only began in 2008 when the European Space Agency announced a call for astronauts. Over 8,000 eligible applicants were reduced to six successful recruits, with 43-year-old Peake the sole Brit.
“If I manage to get to the space station without a failure, it’ll be a first”
Of the new astronauts, Peake was chosen for the Principia mission. On his team is Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko, who has already been on five missions to space. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra is highly experienced too. So does he feel nervous flying for the first time in such coveted company?
“No. It feels great to have such an experienced crew around me,” Peake tells Loaded. “As a rookie astronaut, all you can do is soak up the advice and learn from other people with such talent around you.
“I haven’t sat in a simulation yet where we haven’t had a catastrophic failure of some degree, so you almost expect something to go wrong. If I manage to get to the space station without a failure, it’ll be a first.”
Peake speaks at the London Science Museum whilst in transit from his home in Houston to Russia. Unphased by launching into space on top of a 300-tonne Russian Soyuz rocket, Peake’s concern over the mission is strikingly similar to going on holiday.
“The only fear I have is forgetting something,” he explains. “On the way to Russia I’ll be racking my brain for what I haven’t got in my bag.”
Once aboard the ISS, Peake will be responsible for running 265 experiments, including investigating new metal alloys to improve aircraft and vehicle engines as well as growing protein crystals to develop drugs to fight disease.
However, Peake did admit that he’ll spend a large proportion of his time fixing the loo, which requires essential maintenance work, so everyone can take a pee whilst orbiting earth.
“We’ve had a lot of instruction as to how to maintain it,” Peake explains. “And I’ve probably had about four hours of training for how to operate a space loo. The vacuum pump is the most important thing, as it keeps everything going in the right direction.”
“I’ve probably had about four hours of training for how to operate a space loo”
As well as keeping the loo working, Peake will also run the London Marathon on a treadmill aboard the ISS on April 24.
“We do a lot of fitness training now,” he says. “You don’t have to be fit for space, as such. But you do need to be fit for coming back to Earth.”
Peake will work a startlingly normal working week on the ISS – Monday to Friday, 9-5 – and is given the rest of his time to relax. Aside from training for the Marathon, Peake will also listen to his favourite music.
So, after Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made headlines with his cover of Space Oddity, does Peake have his own David Bowie cover prepared?
“I’ll answer that one quickly,” he smiles. “No.”
BBC2 screens Horizon’s Tim Peake special How To Be An Astronaut tonight at 8pm and Stargazing Live’s Blast Off live show on December 15 at 7pm.
Loaded reporter Robert McCallum has written for many leading culture magazines and websites about music, sport, science, politics, fashion and arts. Follow Robert at @therobmccallum