The UK’s lack of enthusiasm for space exploration is a painful frustration for those of us who grew up on a diet of Dan Dare, Thunderbirds, Hugh Walters’ books, Captain Condor even! We were regularly watching Gemini and Apollo missions on the box, launching supersonic passenger planes, and to youthful minds it seemed natural that we should be up there as well. Except we were not.

So in many ways Tim Peake’s mission to the ISS is an exciting break through the political inertia that has kept us grounded. But Major Tim isn’t the first Brit in space and today’s Guardian has a thoughtful interview with our first lady of space travel, Helen Sharman. Next month it will be 25 years since she joined the crew of Russia’s Mir for an eight day mission.

These days, Sharman is Operations Manager of the Chemistry Department at Imperial College London. Recently she has been advocating that the UK increases spending on space research. This space cadet will go along with that.