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Ex-Kent schoolboy's space mission

SPACEMAN: Dr Michael Foale
SPACEMAN: Dr Michael Foale

ASTRONAUT Michael Foale – the first Briton to perform a space walk – is working hard on NASA’s next big project: a manned moon landing in 2018.

Dr Foale is researching and developing the space suit which the four crew will wear. NASA hopes to put them on the same spot as the first moon landing and leave equipment there as a base for future flights.

Dr Foale, who attended King's in Canterbury, said: "It is planned to land on the moon’s south pole where we hope to find frozen water and gas in the deep craters where the sun never goes."

He added that scientists would use research for the next moon landing to develop their plans for a mission to Mars, which he thought would take place some time about 2025.

"I am an active astronaut but at the moment I am keen on developing new space suits for the moon trip and this work will quite happily take me up to 2018," Dr Foale said.

"I have spent a lot of time in space and am happy for someone else to go to the moon. People ask me a lot about the risks involved in space travel but I think they are risks worth taking."

Dr Foale said he coped with spending so much time in space – he holds the US record – because humans were remarkably adept at adjusting.

"When you first get up there you cannot control your body very well and tend to push too much so things go flying," he said. "But in the end space becomes normal and you adapt to it."

Dr Foale said the most dramatic memory he had of his first trip into space was the view of earth from the shuttle window.

He said: "It is very blue against a black background. The stars are not apparent until you go around the dark side of the earth which happens every 90 minutes and they are coloured. I could see huge fires burning in Africa, glowing orange and the moon is brown, gold and orange.

"The first time I went up I was very excited but space is a dangerous place and you must never forget that. You really have to enjoy your excitement when you get back otherwise it could kill you."

Dr Foale lives in America with his wife and two children but has spent time in Russia while training to join the Russian MIR space station.

Asked about the television programme Space Cadets he said he had never seen it.

"If our schools are such that people can’t recognise that they are not in space that says something about education in the UK," he added. "I am very disappointed by that."

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