UK spaceman Tim Peake is stepping down permanently from his role as a European astronaut.
He’s going to take up a full-time ambassadorial position for science and space instead – work he’s been doing since 2019.
The former British Army Air Corps helicopter pilot was selected as a European Space Agency (Esa) astronaut in 2009.
He flew to the space station for a six-month tour in 2015/2016.
“Being an Esa astronaut has been the most extraordinary experience,” Tim Peake said.
“I have had the privilege of working with an exceptional team of dedicated individuals during the past 13 years with the agency, which has been incredibly exciting and rewarding.
“By assuming the role of an ambassador for human spaceflight, I shall continue to support Esa and the UK Space Agency, with a focus on educational outreach, and I look forward to the many exciting opportunities ahead.”
In November last year, Esa unveiled UK citizens Rosemary Coogan, John McFall and Meganne Christian as new astronaut candidates.
Coogan is set to begin training in April; McFall is joining a feasibility study to see if he can fly as a disabled astronaut (he’s a former Paralympic “blade runner”); and Christian is a reserve and could join the corps if someone else drops out.
Tim Peake’s selection into the Esa astronaut corps in 2009 was a surprise because the UK was not participating in the agency’s human spaceflight programme at the time. But this policy changed as a consequence and now Britain plays its part, helping to fund the programme and send experiments to the International Space Station.
The UK, as an Esa member state, is also involved in the US space agency Nasa’s Artemis programme to go back to the Moon and will be supplying equipment for a new lunar space station.
Dr Paul Bate, the UK Space Agency’s CEO, said: “Tim Peake is an incredible ambassador for the UK space sector and has played a leading role over the past decade.
“Not only has he carried out important scientific work, during his historic Principia mission to the International Space Station and while on Earth, but he has inspired millions with his passion for space and the opportunities it offers.”
Chichester-born Tim Peake was the second UK citizen to fly to space after Helen Sharman, who went to the Mir space station in 1991 on a private programme organised with the Russians. Other Britons flew with Nasa but did so as US citizens.
During his Principia mission on the ISS, he became the first person to complete a spacewalk while sporting a Union flag on his shoulder. He controlled a rover remotely in the Stevenage Mars Yard from orbit, helped dock two spacecraft, and even ran the London marathon on a treadmill.