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Welcome home to UK astronaut Major Tim Peake, who returned to Earth on Saturday at the end of his mission aboard the International Space Station, orbiting 250 miles above our planet.

The former Army helicopter pilot is only the second Briton to spend time in space, following in the footsteps of Helen Sharman, who spent a week aboard the Soviet Mir space station in 1991. In contrast, Major Peake has spent six months aboard the ISS, designed to be a permanently crewed science lab in space.

Crews are regularly rotated, most spending around six months on the space station. Major Peake returned to Earth on Saturday along with two fellow crew members, American astronaut Timothy Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. Their cramped Soyuz capsule parachuted safely to ground in Kazakhstan after hurtling through the Earth's atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound, generating temperatures of around 2,500°C on the outside of the capsule.

After landing, Major Peake and his colleagues were carried from the capsule to a nearby tent for a series of routine medical checks. This is partly because the zero gravity of space causes some muscle wastage and loss of bone density, but mainly because returning to Earth's gravity tends to pull blood away from the brain causing astronauts to feel dizzy, light-headed and faint until their bodies readjust. Previous astronauts have said it takes several weeks for the human body to readapt to being on Earth after extended stays in zero gravity.

Major Peake was chosen from a pool of 8,000 applicants to join the European Space Agency astronaut training programme back in 2009, becoming the first Briton to be selected as an ESA astronaut. He undertook years of intensive training before joining the crew of the ISS in December last year.

During his time on board he has helped to conduct more than 250 experiments in medical science, radiation physics and materials. He also took part in a spacewalk in January this year, changing a faulty component on the outside of the ISS together with fellow astronaut Tim Kopra.

Perhaps his biggest achievement has been in engaging at least a million UK schoolchildren in the space programme, inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers, and maybe even future astronauts. Under the banner of the 'Cosmic Classroom' around 30 projects have actively involved students of various ages, ranging from fitness challenge, biology experiments, amateur radio hook-ups and computer coding. Together they comprise the largest public engagement exercise for any ESA astronaut.

In more light-hearted moments, he also ran a 'virtual' London Marathon hooked to a treadmill, addressed this year's Brit Awards and controlled a robot on Earth by remote control from the ISS. Above all he has been a tremendous ambassador for both the ESA and Briton, and that work is sure to continue now that he is safely back on Earth.

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