The Names Of British Astronauts Who Got To The Orbit Before Tim Peake

British Astronauts

Published on November 21st, 2022

Tim Peake remains one of the most famous British astronauts because his mission, Principa, truly had a principal meaning for the UK space industry and was widely covered in the media.

However, there are other British astronauts’ names that have made it into the list of space history and, what’s probably even more important, went to orbit before Tim Peake.

Here, we will discuss famous British astronauts that have made a valuable contribution to the UK space industry development — Helen Sharman, Nicholas Patrick, Michael Foale, and others.

Helen Sharman: First British Woman In Space

The first British astronaut to ever go to space was a 27-year-old woman, Helen Sharman. In 1989, Sharman, at the time a chemist for Mars company, applied for a joint British-Soviet mission Juno.

Helen’s application was chosen among 13,000 other candidates, and two years later, after rigorous training, Ms Sharman went to Mir station with two Soviet astronauts. The first British woman spent eight days onboard the station, engaging in agricultural and medical research.

Upon her return to Earth, Sharman was eventually awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a star on Sheffield’s Walk of Fame, and the Order of Friendship of Peoples from the USSR.

Even though Helen never returned to space, she continued her academic career and published several books about her space travel experience.

Michael Foale: Longest Cumulative Time in Space

Michael Foale

Sharman was the first British person in space, but her stay at the Mir station was rather short. Michael Foale, on the other hand, holds a record for the cumulative time spent in orbit.

This famous British astronaut spent a total of 375 days outside our planet, made six missions to the ISS and Mir station (as part of both Soyuz and Space Shuttle crews), and carried out four spacewalks lasting a total of 22 hours 44 minutes.

Even though Foale went to space as a NASA astronaut, he holds a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and remains one of the most famous British astronauts for his massive contribution to space missions.

After all, Foale engaged in more missions than any other British astronaut so far.

British Astronauts On The ISS

Sharman and Foale paved the way for more famous people to follow. So, how many British astronauts have been into space? According to Orbital Today, six British-born astronauts and one British citizen born in South Africa have been to orbit so far.

Sharman and Foale are the only British astronauts who got a chance to visit the Mir station, but four other UK citizens besides Tim Peake had the privilege of contributing to the ISS missions. They are Pierce Sellers, Nicholas Patrick, Mark Shuttleworth, and Richard Garriott.

Pierce Sellers was born in Sussex and relocated to the USA to join NASA in 1982. Sellers started out as a research meteorologist but, in 1996, was chosen as an astronaut candidate.

He is famous for visiting the ISS there times — in 2002, 2006, and 2010, having spent a total of 850 hours in space.

Nicholas Patrick, born and raised in Scotland, follows him closely behind, with 640 astronaut hours clocked. Just like Sellers, Patrick relocated to the US and became a citizen in 1994.

His NASA career started as an aeronautical engineer, a flight instructor, and eventually — an astronaut. He went to the ISS twice, in 2006 and 2010.

Two years later, in 2012, Nicholas Patrick retired from NASA and joined a private aerospace company Blue Origin where he now works as Senior Director of Human Integration.

The other famous British astronauts’ names on this list are not professionals, but tourists.

In 2002, an IT entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, with dual British and South African citizenship, paid $20 million for an eight-day trip to the ISS.

Even though Shuttleworth went as a tourist, he still participated in genome research and held several broadcasts from space — one with Nelson Mandela and another one with a terminally ill South African girl.

Another British tourist, Richard Garriott, went to the ISS in 2008. He spent a total of twelve days in space and paid a whopping $30 million for this trip. Up to this day, he remains the last British tourist on the ISS, but considering the development of commercial space flights, new names may soon be added to this list.

So, what is the name of the British astronaut that has been the last one in space? So far, this title still belongs to Tim Peake, but that may soon change, considering the UK’s active participation in international space missions and its investment in various tech initiatives.

Plus, let’s not forget that British astronauts are still eligible for ESA programs. Soon enough, we may discover new astronaut names and learn about their contribution to Moon and interplanetary exploration.

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