A4, digital, 2016

Principia Mission art by Alex Storer

The arrival of British astronaut Tim Peake at the International Space Station on 15 December 2015 inspired the imagination. His activities in space provided a source of fascination and excitement in these early days of humanity’s exploration of the cosmos, encouraging us to look forward to further achievements and discoveries beyond our Earth.

We see an impressionistic view of Soyuz TMA-19M as it approached the ISS. Sunlight reflects off the surface of the orbital module and its antennae, and further back from the service module and the extended solar array. Directional jets operate to achieve the correct orientation, yet the vessel seems to glide effortlessly through the blackness of space. The Earth’s surface lies far below. During its four orbits of our planet to reach the station, the spacecraft flew over a wide range of features in our atmosphere, and here we see what appears to be a developing storm system.

During the approach the docking navigation system failed to work correctly, and manual docking was required. Even in these days of automated systems, human intervention still has its place in the exploration of space. Similarly, while photographs provide a record of the reality of major events, we look to art to give an impression of how they are perceived by human beings. In this way, we celebrate this key development in British manned spaceflight.

Text: Richard Hayes