After 186 days in space, 30 scientific experiments, hundreds of Instagram posts, one London marathon and an appearance on the Brits, Tim Peake is finally home. The Chichester-born former test pilot became the first British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS) when he landed on 15 December 2015.
His mission, known as the 'Principia mission' included research activities testing new technologies in the unique environment of space. Peake also conducted the first spacewalk by a UK astronaut and remotely steered a robot on Earth.
The Soyuz capsule carrying Major Peake and two other crew members, astronaut Tim Kopra and Soyuz spacecraft commander Yuri Malenchenko, touched down in Kazakhstan, landing on its side, at 10.15am BST on 18 June. The former army officer completed about 3,000 orbits of Earth, covering a distance of about 125 million km.
He landed in a sparsely-populated desert steppe of the land-locked country and will head to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, for check-ups and to aid research into how humans adapt to living in space.
Major Peake was chosen from a pool of 8,000 applicants and became the first person to fly to space under the UK banner since Helen Sharman in 1991. The 44-year-old ran the London Marathon on a treadmill and captured hundreds of breath-taking pictures of Earth from space, publishing them to his Instagram account.
Many schools have engaged with Peake during the trip in an attempt to inspire the next generation of astronauts. The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft undocked from the ISS and began its descent in the early hours of the morning, taking five hours to descend to Earth.
Shortly after the deorbit Soyuz separates into three parts with the orbital and service modules burn up on reentry in the denser layers of Earth's atmosphere. The descent module turns to position its heatshield towards the direction of reentry, so that it can handle the 1600°C created by the friction with our atmosphere.
Reentry starts at an altitude of about 120km, when their cruising speed of 28,800 km/h is reduced dramatically and the crew are pushed back into their seats with a force of 4–5G. This is equivalent to four to five times their own body weight.
"It is going to be quite tricky for me to adapt. It's probably going to take me two or three days before I feel well," Maj Peake said before his return. "It will take me several months before my body fully recovers in terms of bone density. And it will be interesting to see any lasting changes to eyesight etc."