Astronaut Tim Peake: I want mission to inspire children

British Astronaut Travelling to the Space Station

British astronaut Tim Peake has said he hopes his space mission will generate similar excitement in the UK to the US moon missions.

Major Peake is preparing to jet to the International Space Station next month as the first British citizen to be selected for astronaut training by European Space Agency (Esa).

He told the BBC he hoped his mission would inspire children into space exploration, engineering and science.

Asked if he expected to rekindle public enthusiasm to the level of the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 70s, he said: "I hope it does have an effect like that to some degree."

And he added: "I was really keen that we make the absolute most of this mission to encourage students and young people to get involved in technology and engineering, and to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects that will set them up for future careers in those industries.

"I think it is really important to reach out to our younger generation and to try to encourage them to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics as subjects. We have a skills shortage at the moment, and we desperately need more graduates with those backgrounds."

Tim will embark for a six month stay on the space station on December 15.

During his mission he will perform more than 30 experiments for the Esa as well as participating in many others.

Maj Peake, 42, a former Army helicopter pilot, joined the space agency in September 2009 and completed his basic training in November 2010.

His forthcoming mission has been called Principia, after Sir Isaac Newton's historic text Naturalis Principia Mathematica, describing the principal laws of motion and gravity.

Travelling with him will be Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.