Question: “That capsule behind you looks pretty small and cramped, what was it like?”
Answer: “That is the exact one I went up in and came down in, and it is very crammed indeed. You’re packed-in like sardines into a tin can, but it’s a really robust spacecraft. It’s very basic. When it comes down to Earth, it just falls like a brick and it gets up to about 1700 Celsius outside the spacecraft, but it really works. It’s good technology and got us there and back safely.”

Question: You spent six months aboard the International Space Station, what was that like? What sort of experience was it for you?
Answer: Going into space is an incredible experience. I mean there are two things which really strike you, and that’s; weightlessness, and the effect it has on the body and how much fun it is to work and live in weightlessness; and the view, the view of Earth from space and looking the other way out into the universe. They are two experiences that are very hard to replicate back here on Earth, and your training doesn’t really prepare you for that. It’s an incredible privilege to be up there in space.

Question: What was the most memorable experience? If you could go back and relive part of that experience, what would it be?
Answer: I would relive the five hours that I had outside the space station on the spacewalk. They were absolutely incredible, a very surreal experience.

Question: Now a space walk, I mean that’s quite a special thing. How did that feel just floating out into space? I know you are grabbing onto things, some people say they feel like they are falling, but what did you experience? What was that like for you?
Answer: You’re very very aware of the level of exposure when you go outside the space station. The space station becomes your sanctuary. It’s your home and when you go out of the hatch, you get vertigo by looking down at Earth, sure it’s 400km, it’s a long way down, but you get vertigo in all directions. It’s the feeling of the enormity and blackness of space surrounding you, and that takes a few moments to just really get your mind around, to get used to it.

Question: I mean there are huge advances that are taking place in space technology. What are the sort of missions and concepts coming through that are capturing your attention?
Answer: Yes, the pace is moving very rapidly now. We’ve got missions to the Moon coming up in the next few years, and we’ve got commercial companies working alongside the major space agencies to make that happen. So for example, SpaceX is building the landing system that will take astronauts from lunar orbit down to the surface of the Moon and back again. At the same time as we are doing the lunar expansion, you’ve got commercial expansion of low Earth orbit, so a couple of space stations under development; the Axiom Space Station and the Orbital Reef Space Station. These are going to be after the International Space Station, so an awful lot is happening, and then of course the focus is also on Mars, and I think realistically, in the 2030’s is when we can expect those human missions to Mars.

Question: And would you like to go back into space? Make it to the Moon or even to Mars?
Answer: I haven’t met an astronaut yet who doesn’t want to go back into space. It’s an incredible place to live and work, so yes, I mean for me, I think the ideal mission right now would be a lunar mission. Mars is going to be a three year mission, that’s a long time away when you’ve got two teenage children, so for me a lunar mission would be absolutely perfect. That would be a dream come true.

Question: Now, we’re also seeing technological advances in space spinning off into travel on Earth with some promises of some amazing things coming up. What do you think we might see there?
Answer: Well in the long-term I think what we will see is some advances in transportation, maybe a sub-orbital transportation system. At the moment, you’ve got a couple of companies which are looking at flying space tourists up into space and dropping back down again. There is no reason why you have to drop back down in the same location, fly up into space and drop down on another continent and cut down that travel time. So potentially, that’s where some of the technologies that are being explored right now could lead us to in the future  very rapid transportation systems around the globe.

Question: And when you travel on Earth, how do you like to travel?
Answer: I love to travel on a motorbike. I just love the feeling of being in the fresh air. I love the excitement of being on a bike. It’s about the journey, it’s not about the destination, so biking’s all about that.

Question: While you’re waiting for your next space mission, you’re keeping yourself busy and you’ve become quite a prolific author, including some children’s stories. Does that take a lot of your time? What are your ambitions there?
Answer: It does take time, but I really enjoy it. I’ve got a series of science fiction books going on. It’s like an adventure tale about aliens coming to Earth. I’m having a lot of fun writing that with Steve Cole, who is a brilliant children’s author as well. I’m also writing a non-fiction book about the universe, about how we got here, from the Big Bang to right where we are today. That’s been a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.

Question: I guess that begs the question, do you believe in aliens? Do you believe we are not alone?
Answer: Oh completely yes, the trouble is, the scale of the universe in time and distance, will we ever make contact, who knows…

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