spaceSpace and Physics

Tim Peake Shares Astronaut Test Riddles. Can You Solve Them?


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Peake, pictured here during training back in 2014. Robert Markowitz/ESA/JSC

Becoming an astronaut isn’t exactly easy, and those that are currently working through NASA’s tough Astronaut Candidate training program would certainly say that that’s an understatement. Tim Peake, a British astronaut – and stunning astrophotographer, by the way – has now given a hint as to what the European Space Agency (ESA) training process was like, and it seems that a few brainteasers were involved.

This isn’t surprising, really: astronauts have to be able to do cognitive acrobatics under rather bizarre, literally out-of-this-world conditions to keep functioning and to do their jobs up there on the International Space Station (ISS). Still, it’s an interesting, brief peek under the hood of a somewhat secretive process.


Taking to Twitter, Peake shared a few “real puzzles and exercises” from his selection process at the ESA. It’s part of a promotion for his new book, The Astronaut Selection Test Book, which was also co-written by staff at the ESA. Take a look at them below, and see if you can solve them.


Had a think? Right, well spoiler alert: the answers are at the end of the article.

There’s plenty more to astronaut training than just solving brainteasers, of course. Sadly, just answering these correctly doesn’t mean you get to put on the schmancy gear, head up into space, then return to field questions from TV hosts who aren’t quite sure what’s generally going on with that whole space thing.

The ESA explains that the first stage of training any European astronaut begins at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. There, along with five other classmates, Peake was given an education in scientific, mathematical, engineering, and medical skills. The group were also briefed on the physics of orbital mechanics, given some survival training, and even taught Russian.


Next comes 2.5 years of intensive training, which takes place at sites all over the world, from the outskirts of Tokyo to Star City in Moscow. Full-sized ISS mockups, actual experimental apparatuses, and water tanks to simulate weightless spacewalks are just some of the measures deployed by the ESA.

The site also explains that Peake spent some time going through caves with an international team of astronauts in Sardinia, as well as 12 days in a simulated asteroid environment named Aquarius – the world’s only underwater research station – found off the coast of Florida.

This is just a brief summary, but the point is that Tim Peake’s journey to perhaps literal stardom was far from easy. Solving riddles is just a small, if vital, part of it. Speaking of which, here are those answers I promised you!



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