AS BRITISH astronaut Tim Peake joins the International Space Station (ISS), a star man from Oxford has been getting a taste of life as a cosmonaut.
Engineer David Homfray said it was a “dream come true” when he visited a training program at Russia’s space centre in Moscow, where much of the ISS training is done.
Mr Homfray is studying for a Masters degree in Astronautics and Space Engineering in his spare time and joined fellow students on a trip to the Russian city.
The 41-year-old said: “It was an amazing trip.
“As someone who has been fascinated by space flight since a young lad, the opportunity to go where Yuri Gagarin trained was an absolute dream come true.”
He said he hoped Major Peake’s landmark journey would inspire others as it had inspired him.
He added: “People like Tim Peake can hopefully excite the next generation, showing that science and engineering is not only the best job you can have but is only limited by their imagination.”
Mr Homfray, who lives with wife Ailsa in Iffley, is an engineer in charge on the Joint European Taurus fusion experiment at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.
He is studying for his degree in his spare time.
The student trip to Russia was led by British astronaut Michael Foale, veteran of six space shuttle missions and extended stays on the ISS and Mir space stations.
Appropriately for David and his work on nuclear fusion – the power of the stars – the Russian centre is located at Star City near Moscow.
Since the 1960s it has been home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center .
The students were one of the first international groups to utilise some of the Star City equipment and got practical demonstrations of spacecraft and docking procedures.
Mr Homfray added: “My favourite moment was getting a pat on the back from an astronaut and the trainer after successfully docking the Soyuz space capsule onto the ISS. The exercise simulated the sort of problems that could cause a real-life mission to be aborted.
“It brought home to me that the astronaut is just the focal point of all the hard work of a myriad of engineers and scientists who do the real work – all unsung heroes.”
Meanwhile three secondary school students from Oxford have had an experiment they designed taken up to the ISS by Tim Peake himself.
Artur Donaldson, Alexander Gunasekera, and Kiran Gopinathan designed a digital camera which detects high-energy cosmic radiation.
Their creation one of the winning entries of the international Astro Pi competition, which challenged students to design and code an experiment to run on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer.