Tim Peake blasts off for International Space Station

The Russian rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo: European Space Agency

The Russian rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo: European Space Agency/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Major Tim Peake has blasted off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).

British astronaut Tim Peake during the crew's news conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Ka

British astronaut Tim Peake during the crew's news conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The Russian rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in front of the world's media following weeks of preparation.

Major Peake, 43, is making history as the first fully British professional astronaut to be employed by a space agency.

Earlier well-wishers gathered waving Union flags, cheering and shouting 'Go Tim' as Major Peake and his two crew companions departed from the Cosmonaut Hotel for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

They included Major Peake's best man, former Army Air Corps pilot Ian Curry, 50, who said: 'I'm hugely excited about the launch. For me it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a tremendously exciting thing and one of my best mates is on board. Tim and I are great mates, we've been pretty tight for 27 years.'

Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency of Major Tim Peake (left

Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency of Major Tim Peake (left) blasting off into orbit. Photo: European Space Agency/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Mr Curry, who now lives in Alabama in the US, revealed that the Peake family, including Major Peake's wife Rebecca, discussed whether being an astronaut was the right thing for Tim.

He said: 'The family had a discussion about it and saw it as a big opportunity. They said, 'Go for it'. Rebecca's incredibly supportive and has been all the way through.

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'Tim is an incredibly patient person. He maintains equilibrium terribly well. Things that would be too much for me, he just deals with.'

It was all too much for one onlooker, Tim's youngest son Oliver, four. Sitting on the shoulders of his grandfather, Tim's father-in-law, he cried loudly, saying: 'I want to go with Daddy.'

Footage issued by the European Space Agency of Major Tim Peake blasting off into orbit. Photo: Europ

Footage issued by the European Space Agency of Major Tim Peake blasting off into orbit. Photo: European Space Agency/PA Wire - Credit: PA

He was consoled by his mother as he clutched a toy.

Major Peake is the first Briton to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS). He is also the first fully British professional astronaut to be employed by a space agency.