Ever since I was a little boy, I have been fascinated with space. I would spend hours looking through books on the Apollo missions, idolising Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for their lunar landing in 1969. I would lie in my bed dreaming of hurtling through space, trying to imagine what it was like for Michael Collins, the forgotten man of that mission who was left in the module orbiting the Moon while the other two took the glory. It was obviously a tough decision, but when asked about what I wanted to do when I grew up, being a journalist was pipped by my desire to be an astronaut.
I can only imagine what it was like to be huddled around a black-and-white television while the American uttered those immortal words as he descended the ladder to the surface of the Moon in 1969. A colleague of mine vividly remembers the night – mostly because he hasn’t forgiven his brother for leaving him asleep in bed during the landing, thinking he wouldn’t be that bothered about it.
It is one of those childhood desires that subsides as the years go by, but yesterday the flame was reignited with the news that the first British astronaut since 2004 will visit the International Space Station. Major Tim Peake will spend more than five months orbiting the Earth. The pressure is already on him, well ahead of his planned departure in 2015. The most recent crew to return to Earth last week included the Canadian Commander Chris Hadfield, whose tweets from space have been acclaimed worldwide.
Like my desire to play rugby for Wales, the moment may have passed me by, but that can’t stop me dreaming. Besides, I’m not sure my wife would want to look after the kids on her own for that long!