British astronaut Major Tim Peake blasts into orbit
Peake is the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station
The Russian rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in front of the world’s media following weeks of preparation.
Major Peake (43) is making history as the first fully British professional astronaut to be employed by a space agency.
Travelling with him are Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko and Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra.
The trio are squeezed into the “descent module” of a tiny Soyuz TMA space capsule only about seven feet long.
At launch the 162 ft rocket generated 422.5 tonnes of thrust - a total of 26 million horsepower.
Before lift off the crew had to endure a tense wait of an hour or more in the capsule, during which they can listen to play lists of selected music.
The three songs Major Peake chose were Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, U2’s Beautiful Day, and Coldplay’s A Sky Full Of Stars.
At a press conference in Baikonur on Monday Major Peake said what he was looking forward to most was his first glimpse of Earth seen from space.
He said: “I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for that moment and that will occur in the Soyuz spacecraft once we get injected into orbit I’ll be able to look out the right window and see the beautiful view of Planet Earth.”
He also revealed that Christmas had nearly slipped his mind in the hectic run up to the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
But he expected to speak to members of his family on Christmas Day, and was also looking forward to tucking into a Christmas pudding sent to the space station in a supply delivery.
After lift-off, it should take six hours for the crew to reach the ISS, which hurtles round the Earth at 17,500 mph at an average altitude of 220 miles.