UK astronaut Tim Peake prepares for return to Earth

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During his stay, he made the first spacewalk by a UK astronaut, remotely steered a robot on Earth and ran the London Marathon.Tim Peake

A Soyuz capsule carrying Major Peake and two other crew members will land in Kazakhstan at 10:15 BST on Saturday. He is the first person to visit space under the UK banner since Helen Sharman in 1991.

Speaking in his last live link-up from space, Major Peake said: “It’s been a fantastic six months up here – [a] really remarkable, incredible experience.

“I’m looking forward to coming home, looking forward to seeing my friends and my family, but I am going to miss this place [the ISS].”

After 03:00 BST on Saturday, Major Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and US astronaut Timothy Kopra will make their farewells and enter the Russian spacecraft that will carry them home from the ISS.

Squeezed into custom-moulded seats in a tiny return ship that hasn’t changed substantially in design since the Soviet era, the three crew members will wait for more than three hours before they are clear to undock from the outpost that has been their home for 186 days.

The Soyuz performs several engine burns to nudge itself clear of the space station and, after it has drifted about 12km from the orbiting platform, the engines fire again to begin the fiery descent to Earth.

This is the most unsettling stage of the journey: as the craft plunges toward Earth at 25 times the speed of sound, atmospheric molecules dissociate and their atoms ionise, enveloping the vehicle in superheated plasma which raises the temperature outside to around 2,500 degrees C.

Once the capsule has decelerated past the plasma phase and has reached an altitude of 10.7km above the Earth’s surface, parachutes open to further slow its descent. As the Soyuz floats to the ground, an engine fires to cushion its landing on the Kazakh steppe, scheduled for 10:15 BST.

British Isles from the ISSTim Peake on spacewallk

© 2016, Conrad Ukpong. All rights reserved.

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