Posted 23 December 2015 by Andrew Gardner
Chichester's very own Major Tim Peake is now resident at the International Space Station - the first British astronaut to go there. The former military helicopter test pilot was in a Soyuz space craft launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, a mission for which he's been preparing since 2013. His career summary on the European Space Agency website reads like an adventure book all of its own and if you've read the fascinating book An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by another ISS astronaut, Chris Hadfield - the first Canadian to walk in space - you'll have garnered some idea of what it takes in human terms. These people have a core of steel, yet when they go into space they discover the strongest connection with humanity.
It's a job that sounds romantic and amazing, until you realise what they do for training, and then the romance definitely scarpers. You couldn't be claustrophobic in that job. Living under the sea. Testing your resourcefulness and teamwork by spending weeks underground in caves. Let alone the practical and academic side. A part of me would love to go into space, but caving? No thanks. I do know a Sussex man who is part of the national caving rescue service, and I absolutely take my hat off to him, even though I cannot understand why anyone would voluntarily go down a cave system in the first place.
Of course, there are caves and caves. I've been down the Reigate tunnels, and the Dorking caves, but this is quite different. These are largely man-made and were used over the centuries for all sorts of nefarious activities such as cock-fighting and hiding smugglers' loot, as well as being earmarked for air-raid shelters and other civic uses. Then there are the caving adventures for kids at outdoor centres like Hindleap Warren, which are organised, supervised and brilliant family fun. But real, natural caves, the sort you could explore for days... no thanks. I'll stick to curling up by a nice warm wood-burner, just like the ones in so many of our country cottages - click here to view. Keep warm, everyone!