Space

Meet Tim Peake: Guest Editor of National Geographic

Britain's most famous astronaut occupied the hot seat at National Geographic for this month's issue. Sunday, 28 October 2018

By Tim Peake

Six months is a long time to spend away from Earth. But that’s what we sign up for as astronauts, and I loved living and working on the International Space Station (ISS). What struck me most during my stay in space, about two years ago, was just how fragile and remote our planet is. While Earth appears to be a vibrant and stunning oasis of life, it also seems precarious and insignificant when set against a backdrop of a hundred billion stars.

This perspective accentuates the importance of the work we are doing on board the ISS—scientific research for the benefit of people on Earth while also striving to understand and extend human presence in the solar system. After the space station is handed over to commercial management in the mid-2020s, the European Space Agency (ESA), in cooperation with international partners, will help to build a smaller space station called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. It will act as a staging point for both lunar surface missions and long-distance space flights to Mars. Ahead of human missions to Mars, robotic probes and rovers such as ESA’s ExoMars 2020 will take samples of the Martian soil in the quest to find evidence of life there.

Having witnessed the beauty of Earth from space, I am only too aware that we must focus our attention on ensuring that our planet remains a safe environment to support human life. But outside this blue oasis there is a whole universe to explore, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Exciting times lie ahead.

The November issue of National Geographic, guest edited by Tim Peake, goes on sale on 31 October 2018.