On the face of it, a family caravanning trip might not appear to provide the perfect conditions for space training,but Tim Peake, the first British person to join the International Space Station when he departed Earth in December 2015, insists the similarities are striking.
“If you can live together as a family of four in a caravan then you can live on the space station because it’s all about personal admin. It’s keeping on top of your kit, being minimalist and making sure everything is put back in the right place,” explains Tim, 48, who recounts the adventures he enjoyed with his parents, Angela and Nigel, a midwife and journalist, and older sister Fiona, in his new autobiography Limitless.
The family’s brown Citroen DS would be packed up – “the caravan hitched to the back” – and off they’d head from West Sussex to the south of France, or closer to home, the Lake District and Yorkshire. As long it involved some form of outdoor action, the young Tim was happy, and his parents were content for him to explore.
“I have to give my mum and dad credit, they weren’t potholers, kayakers, rock climbers or orienteers, but they were happy to encourage me in all of that reckless stuff,” he writes, noting it was a wonderfully “ordinary” childhood.
Their family home was a semi-detached house on a cul-de-sac called Whitley Close, part of a new housing estate on the edge of Westbourne village. Tim attended Westbourne Primary School and went to the local Scout hut for weekly Cubs meetings. Later, he frequented Westbourne Youth Club, the discos being a particular highlight in the social calendar.
He admits to being shy around girls, something he attributes to his single sex education and the fact “I was small... and I was ginger,” he notes today in self-deprecating fashion.
‘If you can live together as a family of four in a caravan then you can live on the space station’
Space travel wasn’t one of Tim’s passions growing up – that was flying. His ambition was to fly helicopters, but before he could get in the cockpit of a Gazelle or Apache, he had to make do with flying radio-controlled aircraft with varying degrees of success. On one occasion, his prized model plane fell out of the sky in front of a brigadier and assembled crowd during the Chichester High School for Boys Cadet parade. The shame, he jokes, continues to haunt him.
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