This just in... from our man in space

British astronaut Nicholas Patrick sends dispatches from 'Discovery', via his wife
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The wife of British-born astronaut Dr Nicholas Patrick spoke yesterday about the emotional experience of seeing her husband fulfil his lifelong dream of going to space.

Dr Patrick's wife, Dr Rossana Palomino, and their three young children went to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the space shuttle Discovery launch last week. Dr Palomino said: "It was very emotional, I was holding the oldest two and I was trying to talk them through what was happening. We saw the rocket igniting and we felt the force of it going through us. There were a few tears; he has wanted this all his life and it was his dream coming true."

Dr Patrick, 42, who was born in Saltburn, Teesside, is making his debut space flight on the £230m Discovery mission to the International Space Station. It is his job to operate the robotic arms used to inspect the shuttle. The crew is to deliver £5.6m of equipment to the space lab and bring home one of the space station's three crew members, German astronaut Thomas Reiter.

Discovery is due back on Earth on 22 December, in time for Dr Patrick to have Christmas with his four-year-old son, William, three-year-old daughter, Cecilia, and two-month-old son, Cameron. Dr Palomino, 36, who is a paediatrician, said: "The children are missing him and for days they have been playing at launching shuttles. The oldest understands that Papi is in space. The younger one knows, I think, that Papi was in the rocket but thinks he is still in Florida going round in it. It is very interesting."

Dr Patrick has sent his family a couple of short emails, saying "I am missing you", "I am working hard but loving it" and "It has been worth the wait". His wife also had a brief phone call, in which she said he sounded "happy and excited".

Dr Patrick studied at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, and then trained to be a pilot with the Royal Air Force. He moved to the US after finishing his education. He now lives in Houston and became an American citizen in 1994.

His father, Stewart, 68, who lives in Pennsylvania, is immensely proud of his son. He said Dr Patrick has fulfilled a dream which began when he was just five years old.

He said: "The day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, we were in America and it was the middle of the night. We got Nick out of bed - he was about five, - and he and his younger brother sat up and watched it. He puts his dream down to that moment."

Mr Patrick tunes into Nasa's TV station online every morning and follows his son's progress all day. He said: "I don't think he is in a hurry to come back. If he could have stayed six months he would have.

"When he gets back I will want to hear all of his impressions up there, about weightlessness and the way it affects everything you do, about his views of the Earth. It will be very special."