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UK astronauts make unique book loan

09/03/2020 464 views 14 likes
ESA / Space in Member States / United Kingdom

British astronauts Helen Sharman and Tim Peake have presented a book that has twice flown into space to the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The pair delivered the volume signed by 15 astronauts to the centre on 7 March.

“Road to the stars” is an autobiography by Yuri Gargarin, who was the first man to go into space when his Soviet capsule Vostok 1 completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961.

The 296-page volume, first published in 1962 and signed by Gargarin himself, was given to Helen Sharman when she became the UK’s first astronaut in 1991.

British astronauts Helen Sharman and Tim Peake with the book that has twice flown into space
British astronauts Helen Sharman and Tim Peake with the book that has twice flown into space

She was presented with the book during her training at Star City near Moscow – now called the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre – ahead of her flight to the Mir space station, which operated from 1986 to 2001.

Sharman took the book with her, adding her signature while in space. Her crewmates – Viktor Afanasyev, Anatoly Artsebarsky, Sergei Krikalev and Musa Manarov – also signed the tome.

ESA astronaut Tim Peake with Road to the Stars on the International Space Station
ESA astronaut Tim Peake with Road to the Stars on the International Space Station

Some 24 years later when Tim Peake was selected as an ESA astronaut, Sharman lent him the book.

He returned the volume to space aboard his Principia mission in 2015, adding his signature while on the International Space Station. It was also autographed by fellow crew members Scott Kelly, Tim Kopra, Mikhail Korniyenko, Yuri Malenchenko, Aleksei Ovchinin, Oleg Skripochka, Sergei Volkov and Jeffrey Williams.

Some 15 astronauts have signed the book
Some 15 astronauts have signed the book

The book has now gone on long-term display at the National Space Centre.

“We are most grateful to Helen Sharman for lending us this unique artefact,” says Dan Kendall, curator at the National Space Centre.

“We have promised to return it the next time a British astronaut goes into space, so that more signatures can be added.”