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Tim Peake

Tim Peake returns to Earth from the International Space Station

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To celebrate the safe return of Tim Peake from his mission to the International Space Station.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a soft ball and a bucket or small bin in which to catch it. The throwing challenge may not be suitable for older students, in which case it may be removed and the explanation adapted slightly.

  • Have available the following images and videos, and the means to display them during the assembly:
    - Tim Peake, available at: and
    - the launch of Tim Peake’s rocket in December 2015, available at: (this video is 4.33 minutes long)
    - the International Space Station, available at

    - the Soyuz space capsule, available at:
    - the Soyuz space capsule undocking and returning to Earth, available at:
    This video is 20.44 minutes long and contains footage of astronauts being interviewed, interspersed with information about the Soyuz space capsule undocking, leaving the International Space Station and returning to Earth. You may want to show excerpts.
    - touchdown, available at: (you will need to scroll down the web page to locate this video, which is 0.17 minutes long)

  • You will also need a selection of images and videos about Tim Peake’s space mission and the means to show these during the assembly. They are available at: (scroll down to find a video of Tim Peake saying goodbye to colleagues on the International Space Station)


  1. Show the images of Tim Peake.

    Remind the students that Tim Peake is the first British astronaut from the European Space Agency to live on the International Space Station. He left Earth to travel to the International Space Station in December 2015.

  2. Show the video of the launch of Tim Peake’s rocket in 2015, available at:

  3. Show the image of the International Space Station.
    While Tim Peake was
     on the International Space Station, he experienced many challenges. He experienced living with almost zero gravity, which meant that he floated around with no sense of up or down. He ran the London Marathon – on a treadmill in space; he remotely steered an Earth-based robot from space; he was involved in a three-hour spacewalk; he conducted many experiments and he was in touch with schools all over the UK.

  4. While Tim Peake was on the International Space Station, he was travelling so fast that he circled the Earth 16 times every 24 hours. This means that, during his mission, he completed 2,720 orbits, covering a distance of about 115 million kilometres (more than 71 million miles).

    During his time on the International Space Station, Tim missed being with his family and said that one of the things he was looking forward to back on Earth was the feeling of rain!

  5. Explain that you would like some volunteers to have a go at a throwing challenge. Explain that they must throw the ball into the bucket or bin that you are holding. After a few attempts, make the challenge more difficult by moving the target suddenly in different directions, spinning round or walking backwards.

  6. Explain that Tim Peake returned to Earth on Saturday 18 June, but getting here involved a complicated version of the ball and bucket game.

    Show the image of the Soyuz space capsule.

    Give the students the following facts.

    - The ball represents the Soyuz space capsule, and the bucket represents the space capsule’s landing spot on the Earth.
    The Soyuz space capsule starts its journey about 400 kilometres (248 miles) above the Earth.
    The Soyuz space capsule travels at about 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,400 miles per hour) and ends its journey to Earth at a speed of 0 kilometres or miles per hour.
    The Earth is continually turning on its axis, as day turns to night and back to day.

  7. Explain that, although it was difficult to get the ball in a moving bucket, it is a lot more complicated and dangerous to get the Soyuz space capsule back from space on time and in the right spot!

    Show the video of the Soyuz space capsule undocking and returning to Earth, available at:

  8. Tim Peake landed back on Earth at 10.15 a.m. on 18 June, 2016.

    Show the video of the touchdown, available at:

    On his return to Earth, Tim Peake said that the journey back was ‘the best ride I've been on ever,’ adding, ‘The smells of Earth are just so strong.’

  9. Tim Peake’s re-entry to Earth will have put many physical stresses on his body. He will have experienced a g-force that made him feel five times heavier than he would on Earth. This will be a huge strain after six months of weightlessness in space, where his bones and muscles will have become weakened. He has many months of recovery ahead.

  10. Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut, explained, 'All astronauts when they land on Earth struggle to stand up . . . because not only does the balance system need to adapt to feeling gravity again, but the body fluids move towards the feet. It tends to make you feel a bit faint. Astronauts who have been up a long time do often suffer from faintness for a few days.’

Time for reflection

Tim Peake was selected as a European astronaut for several reasons. He had the right experience, a high level of fitness and the right qualifications, but he also had something just as important – the right attitude. He was calm, determined and worked well with other people. These are all good qualities for us to develop in our own lives. They will help us to steer a good course through our lives.

How would we measure up to astronaut Tim Peake?

Between us, we will have a range of answers! We might think, ‘not very well’ or ‘I could do that’ or ‘I could do better’ or even ‘I’m going to go to Mars.’

However, Tim Peake’s mission to space and the attitude that he shows in his life can be applied to the arts, politics, science, entertainment, fashion or any area of human endeavour. Whatever it is we want to do, wherever we want to go in life, whatever we want to achieve today or in the future, it all starts with that special quality – character - and in that area, everyone can choose to measure up to Tim Peake.

Publication date: June 2016   (Vol.18 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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