In January, we hosted an exclusive, virtual Q&A for students with British astronaut Tim Peake. See Tim's insights and video!
You don’t need to be a straight-A student to succeed
I’m going to let you into a secret: I left school with a C, D and an E in Maths, Physics and Chemistry A Levels. So I wasn’t an academic genius by any stretch. The thing is that since leaving school, I’ve never stopped studying. Once you’re passionate about and can direct your energy towards something, it helps you to focus; my knowledge of maths and physics is now at degree level.
Develop your personality and character
There are two pillars that make up your ability to perform well in life and to achieve your potential. Academic skills will help, but you’ll also need personality and character to take you all the way. The extra-curricular activities, the things you are doing that help to develop your personality, give you the other pillar. For me, joining the Cadet Force at 13 was a fundamental shift: it sparked a new interest and a new direction in my life.
You don’t need a science degree to join the European Space Agency (ESA)
The ESA is looking for you to have a degree level of education, over 1,000 hours of flying as a pilot, or both. They don’t specify in which subject; it doesn’t even have to be a science-based degree, it could be politics or geography. I wish I’d studied languages at school. All astronauts have to speak Russian, and I started trying to speak it when I was 37, which was hard. French and German are also commonly spoken at the space station.
“You’ve got to come out of your comfort zone; it’s only by pushing yourself that you’ll learn about yourself. Don’t fear failure along the way”
Failure is a key part of success
You’ve got to come out of your comfort zone; it’s only by pushing yourself that you’ll learn about yourself. Don’t fear failure along the way, because the fact that you’ve tried and have pushed yourself further than you wanted to go — that’s success. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life to have the opportunity to do that.
Look after your mental health — in lockdown as in space
As astronauts, we pace ourselves, making sure we stick to structure and routine and manage to have some time off each day to relax and unwind. That’s so important during lockdown as well. Everybody is having a tough time. On the space station, we would make sure we had enough sleep, the right nutrition, enough exercise and time to relax. And I think those four things are vital for mental health.
These insights were brought to you by Future TalentEd magazine.
This piece was first featured in our Spring 2021 issue of Future TalentEd magazine for careers leaders, parents and students.