Page 3 Profile: Michael Foale, Astronaut


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The Independent Online

Houston, we have an astronaut.

Well, not any more. Michael Foale is the most experienced British-born astronaut in the history of space travel, but he’s just announced his retirement. After accumulating more than a year’s worth of space travel, 375 days in orbit to be exact, he’s hanging up his moon boots and fish-bowl helmet.

Does this mean NASA has a vacancy? What do I need on my CV to become an astronaut?

First, to work for NASA you must be a US citizen or have dual nationality like Mr Foale does. He completed his doctorate in Laboratory Astrophysics from Cambridge University in 1982. He then moved to the US to follow his dream of going into orbit, something he couldn’t do in the UK because successive governments refused to invest in something they saw as a waste of time.

Guess I’ll be living vicariously through him then… What sort of things did he get up to up there?

Naturally, trips into the great unknown involved visiting the Mir platform and the International Space Station, as well as doing up the Hubble Space Telescope. It wasn’t all plain space-sailing though. In 1997 a cargo ship rammed into the Mir while he was on it.

Phew, sounds scary! What’s he doing now he’s retired? Probably no long-haul flights for a while?

There’s no stopping Michael Foale! At a spritely 56, he’s planning to use his knowledge and passion for green aviation to help develop an electric aircraft with the aim of reducing the cost of flying by 90 percent. He’s also going to advise the Inspiration Mars Foundation, an organisation which aims to see space travel to Mars by 2018.