Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to fly as part of the European Space Agency (ESA), is going back to space again.
The revelation was made today at the Science Museum in London, where the spacecraft that took Peake to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from December 2015 to June 2016 was being put on display. This is the first flown spacecraft in the UK’s national space technology collection.
“Tim Peake will undertake a second space mission as a British European Space Agency astronaut,” a UK Government statement said, although it noted that ESA had not yet decided when Tim would fly. It’s likely to be between 2019 and 2024, with ESA’s involvement in the ISS running up to 2024 at the moment.
As part of the collaboration, ESA sends one or two astronauts per year to the ISS. Their most recent astronaut is Thomas Pesquet from France, who is currently on the ISS after launching on November 17, 2016.
This will be Peake’s second trip to the ISS, likely to last six months again, and it will make him the first Brit to take part in two long-duration space missions. Several Brits with dual nationality have taken part in multiple shorter missions before aboard the Space Shuttle.
On his first trip, as part of Expeditions 46 and 47, Peake was involved in more than 250 experiments aboard the station. He also famously ran the London Marathon in space on a treadmill (the second person to run a marathon in space after Sunita Williams in 2007), and also performed a spacewalk – the first Brit to do so.
It was also announced that the UK would be committing 1.4 billion euros to ESA over the next four years, which will go some way to allaying fears it would be pushed out in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. ESA is separate from the EU, which is why the UK can still take part in the 22-nation space agency.
Visitors to the Science Museum will also be treated to a new virtual reality experience from March 24, 2017. Called Space Descent VR, viewers will experience what it’s like to return to Earth inside a Soyuz capsule over eight minutes in a fiery descent, where speeds exceed 800 kilometers per hour (500 miles per hour) and temperatures reach 1,500°C (2,700°F).