I know this may appear a weird subject for me to choose as this week has little to do with PR – unless I’m representing an astronaut or a rocket scientist (and I do know one actually).

However, it gives me an excuse to talk about the day I met Tim Peake at the Royal Air Tattoo at Fairford a few years ago.

 

The day did not start well. It was pouring with rain and having bought a ticket I had no idea where to go on site. I had not appreciated how huge the show would be. I wandered into several big tents, where I ended up with many decorated, uniformed men and women. I was a bedraggled rat!

Then I finally found the right tent. I was late, soaking wet, hungry and pretty fed up.

I soon recognised familiar faces, listened to amazing speakers, though to be fair I hadn’t heard of them before, when suddenly there was an excited buzz around the room. I’d heard a whisper the ‘man’ might be able to come along yet there were no guarantees.

A small man dressed in a blue overall entered and was immediately surrounded by people clamouring to get close to him. Major Tim Peake, CMG had entered the tent!

 

Who is Tim Peake?

  1. He is a former Apache pilot, flight instructor, test pilot and a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut.
  2. Between 2015 and 2016 he spent six months living and working on the International Space Station.
  3. In 2008 he applied and beat 8,000 other applicants to become one of six to become an astronaut.
  4. He had to practice to work in a zero gravity space suit, so to do this, he wore his space suit underwater. For some of his training time he spent a week in an underground cave in Sardinia, and 12 days in an underwater laboratory.
  5. Tim was the first British astronaut to take a spacewalk – along with Tim Kopra, they were outside the ISS for four hours making repairs.
  6. Whilst on the ISS, on the same day that the London Marathon took place on earth, Tim ran the equivalent miles on a treadmill, setting the world record for the fastest marathon in space – 3 hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds.
  7. He ‘phoned home’ from the ISS, but dialled the wrong number. The lady who answered hung up, because she thought someone was playing tricks on her when he asked ‘Hello, is that planet earth?”

 

I’ve been in a media scrum many times before, and this was both media and guests, so it was crazy. I’ve learned to stand back a bit and wait for an ideal moment – it’s the best way to eventually be seen and heard.

I also knew I’d only have a few seconds with him, so considered how to make the most of that. I had a colleague take pictures of me with him when I finally ‘got my turn’.

I was hoping some intelligent question would come to mind but I became a blithering idiot and as I stood before him, out of my mouth came the words, ‘my son David really admires you.’ Kindly, he offered to record a message for him. It’s only about three seconds long but I still have it and I’m very grateful to Tim Peake for that as it made David’s year!

I know nothing about space, I have no desire to go there though I admire anyone who has that dream and follows it through. What I do know is, that brief meeting was inspiring, (even though I felt such a plonker at the time) because my son still looks at that clip today and each time he hears it, it spurs him on.

 

If you want to read more about Tim Peake, do so here:

https://timpeake.com/