In the face of the almost overwhelmingly hideous news from the last week - hate crimes, murders, football violence, the list goes on - it seems to me that one amazing piece of news has been overlooked. Well, not overlooked. Just hasn't received the coverage it deserved. The return of Tim Peake to Earth after six months on the International Space Station. It was reported, of course. But some of the articles were pretty derogatory. Along the lines of 'what has he been doing up there anyway because he seems always to have been on TV award shows' and so on.
What these type of comments fail to recognise is the need for visibility for space exploration. Think of the hours and hours of media coverage for fake space travel - Star Wars, Star Trek, etc etc. But kids need to be inspired by the real thing. If future generations are ever going to get beyond our conflict-ridden planet, they need to believe it might be possible and to aspire to 'make it so' (one for the Trekkies there).
Tim Peake and his team have brilliantly used social media and popular TV and radio programmes to extend awareness of the mission. The aerial photographs on Facebook and Instagram every day have been beyond beautiful (see the UK above). I am actually going to miss them. But I don't think they were really aimed at people like me. I hope they were aimed at younger people, specifically children. Because if we are going to make progress, children need to believe it is possible. They need to want nothing more than to be astronauts, like Tim Peake. He got the job out of 10,000 applicants. That alone is a fact worth repeating to children, regardless of the profession they want to enter. It is worth aiming high. Even into space.
To comedians it may seem funny that Tim Peake has popped up on all sorts of programmes. To columnists, it might seem like a giant waste of time and money. But to children in their classrooms, able to talk to someone in space? Not so much. It has been brilliant. And they are the ones who will push our families' stories forward.
In these times of terrible hatred and awful crimes, Tim Peake has, with a bit of luck, caused a good proportion of the children who have followed his journey to want to push Earth's boundaries themselves. While we adults are arguing over Earthbound, self imposed borders, hopefully the next generation are thinking about 'boldly going where no one has gone before' (sorry, sorry, another Trek reference but I couldn't resist it... probably shows my age too...)