Astronaut Tim Peake has taken to the skies over York – and you can see his latest airborne adventure on TV next week.
He flew over the city aboard a hot air balloon piloted by Oliver Webb, owner of Yorkshire Balloon Flights.
Famously, Tim was the first British astronaut to live on the International Space Station. While he didn’t go quite so high on this trip, he did get to enjoy fabulous views of York Minster and more.
And the spaceman shared a fascinating astronomical fact about York and space travel with Oliver – more of which later.
The flight over York will be shown as part of a new series, Secrets of Our Universe with Tim Peake, on Channel 5 next Tuesday (19 September).
In the three-part documentary, Tim will deliver “an action-packed and family-friendly exploration of our universe, sharing his knowledge of the planets, stars and black holes, and space missions”.
Oliver was asked to arrange the flight so Tim could film a sequence for the show.
Early one morning in May, they set off from York Racecourse. As well as Oliver and Tim, on board were astronomer Dr Jen Gupta, a cameraman, sound engineer, a producer and assistant producer.
They were filming a sequence about how “our weather could have been, at one point, similar on certain other planets in the in the solar system,” Oliver said.
“And they wanted to demonstrate that by talking about it from a hot air balloon. It’s a pretty cool thing to be involved in.”
The flight took them south across York and lasted about 90 minutes, before they enjoyed a smooth landing on a farm track just to the east of Elvington.
During the flight, Oliver would time his burns – the noisy blasts of flame which heat the balloon envelope to keep it airborne – in between Tim’s pieces to camera.
“Tim was a really lovely and – I hate to use this term – but down-to-earth guy,” Oliver said. “We made a joke that balloon flight is probably a bit slower than what he was used to.”
He also asked the former astronaut about a rumour he’d heard some years before.
“I was told many years ago that Elvington Airfield was one of the backup landing airfields for the Space Shuttle.
“So I asked him if that was true, and he said, it’s very likely that it is true because it has such a long runway.
“I was asking him while we were flying over it.”
Oliver’s now looking forward to see the show next Tuesday. “It looked quite atmospheric on the day, because the rain had just passed and there was some more raining coming in behind us.
“I haven’t seen the footage yet, but it should look quite spectacular when it’s on TV.”
Episode one of Secrets of Our Universe with Tim Peake is on Channel 5 on Tuesday, 19 September at 9pm