Former army major from Chichester, Tim Peake, will make British history today when he blasts off to space.
And just one of the many people who helped him achieve his dreams - Tim’s former physics teacher at Chichester High School for Boys - has spoken to the Observer about the astronaut who is inspiring a generation.
Major Peake was selected by the European Space Agency from a pool of 8,000 applicants to become the first British-funded astronaut to live and work on the ISS. .
He will launch into space at 11.03am (GMT) today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan alongside crew members Tim Kopra of NASA and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos for the six-month mission, which will see them carry out a variety of experiments and tests for researchers – while also inspiring a generation of children and young people to engage in science.
Mike Gouldstone taught Tim O Level and A Level physics at Chichester High School for Boys from 1986-1990.
Mike said Tim’s personality ‘shone through’ during his time at school and he had no doubt the youngster would go on to do great things.
“Tim was very good at physics, and was particularly good at practical work and working in teams,” said Mike.
“He was never flustered by any tests, he is fine in stressful conditions, so he will be able to handle anything in space.
“He was a special guy, an impeccable model student - he was very polite, charming, and always smiling.
“This is every physics teachers dream, to have had a future astronaut in front of you.
I knew he was going to be a helicopter pilot because he told me that was what he wanted to do. He had just the right personality for that kind of job - he was bright, articulate - and if you were going to be stuck on a cliff edge with anyone, you would want it to be with Tim.
“Tim was a fantastic problem solver, calm in a crisis - he had all the qualities there.
“He has no fear because he is so well trained.”
A popular student, Tim’s main focus at school was his time spent in the cadet force, which he represented the school in.
Mike added: “I knew he was going to be a helicopter pilot because he told me that was what he wanted to do.
“He had just the right personality for that kind of job - he was bright, articulate - and if you were going to be stuck on a cliff edge with anyone, you would want it to be with Tim.”
Mike, 58, has worked at the school since 1985, having started teaching in 1980.
Tim went back to the school in 2009 when it built the Tim Peake Sports and Conference Centre on the campus and he has even taken one of the school’s badges up to the International Space Station with him.
Mike said: “We have extremely capable students and Tim is quite a draw for new students.
“It is all quite emotional for me.
“A lot of children come here because ‘the astronaut Tim Peake’ came here.”
And Mike is keen to include references to Tim in his lessons where possible.
When talking about waves going from peak-to-peak he will make a reference to Tim, and also uses his legacy to inspire his students.
“It’s nice to include him in a lighthearted way from time to time.
“But every time a new group starts, I tell them I taught an astronaut and say ‘any of you could become an astronaut - Tim was just like you, so follow your dreams, I know you can achieve it’.
“Adults are a huge influence on younger people, especially those who have a real passion for something and can share that with youngsters.
“What Tim is doing is influencing people’s lives.”
And Mike said Tim is also re-igniting the ‘space age’.
“We haven’t had a space age for around 15 years now. Now Tim promotes STEM and that will affect our whole economy, for the better.”
Asked what the future might hold for his next generation of pupils, Mike said: “I would like to see the next Prime Minister here.
“I know I have got future politicians in front of me, as well as scientists and engineers.
“I wish Tim God speed and a safe return.
“I am already looking forward to him coming back to see us so I can tell him that his mission was a great application of his physics homework!
“He will be such an inspiration to the young children.”
Marketing and publicity co-ordinator at Chichester High School for Boys and Girls, Tracey Waller said teachers like Mike ‘needed to be recognised’.
“We need to celebrate these sorts of guys,” she said.
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