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Ground Control Names Major Tim as U.K.’s New Astronaut

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. named a former Apache helicopter pilot to be the first astronaut it will put into space in more than 20 years following an increase in government investment in space research.

Tim Peake, who served as a major in the British army, will work for six months on the International Space Station. He’s one of six astronauts selected from among 8,000 hopefuls around the world. The flight is expected to take place in November 2015, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which oversees Britain’s space program, said in an e-mailed statement.

“This is another important mission for Europe and in particular a wonderful opportunity for European science, industry and education to benefit from microgravity research,” Peake said at the Science Museum in London today, according to remarks released by the business department. “I am extremely grateful to the ground support teams who make it possible for us to push the boundaries of knowledge through human spaceflight and exploration.”

Today’s announcement follows increased investment by the U.K. Space Agency in Europe’s space program to 240 million pounds ($365 million) a year, including a 16 million-pound one-time payment to the International Space Station.

Peake joined the European Astronaut Corps in 2009 and will become the second astronaut with solely British citizenship to voyage into space.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the announcement of Peake’s involvement in the program “a momentous day.” The British space industry is worth 9 billion pounds to the nation’s economy annually and employs almost 30,000 people, the government said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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