In 2014, I was fortunate enough to win a national competition run by children’s TV programme Blue Peter to design a badge for Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the International Space Station (ISS). My design was selected from over 3,000 entrants and was made into a mission patch that Tim wore on his ascent to space in December 2015.
I was inspired by the word Principia, which refers to Sir Isaac Newton’s principal laws of gravity and motion. When designing the badge, I had my very own ‘apple on the head’ moment and though that including an apple was a neat way to acknowledge Newton’s discovery around the laws of gravity, as well as reinforce a healthy eating message (which is super important when you’re whizzing around in outer space).
I included the reflection of the ISS on the apple to reinforce the importance of Tim being the first British astronaut to visit the ISS, and as a nod to this I also included the colours of the Union Flag on the border. Once I’d had the initial ideas for the badge, it took me around 3 hours to design.
I’ve always had a keen interest in space and in 2013 I was one of only two Scouts in the country to achieve the Astronautics Activity Badge, sponsored by the UK Space Agency. As a reward, I was invited to the UK Space Conference in Glasgow, where I was presented my badge by Tim Peake, who was still a trainee astronaut at the time.
Because I’d met him and talked to him about him going to space, I thought, ‘why not enter?’ I remembered some of the things he’d said—like wanting to see the Earth from space—and I incorporated it into the design.
When I was told that I’d reached the longlist of 33 entrants I was really excited; the standard of entry was really high and there was some seriously stiff competition. The final decision was made by Tim himself and I felt truly honoured that he’d chosen my design to blast off into space with him! Tim said that he’d picked my design because it was clean, simple and included many references to his mission.
Winning the competition meant that I was lucky enough to watch the launch at the National Space Centre in Leicester. Even better, I was invited to Tim’s homecoming party at Downing Street and got to meet him again. We filmed a segment of Blue Peter together at the Science Museum in London, which is my second-favourite science museum (MSI being my first!)
Equally thrilling was being invited to talk at the Principia Schools Conference at York University, where I learned that 1.5 million school children had had some sort of involvement in this mission—a staggering number.
Seeing Tim’s Soyuz capsule on display in my home town is an exciting, yet slightly surreal experience. I feel like I have quite a strong emotional connection with the capsule and being able to pop down to my local museum and say hello is quite something.
When I visited the museum on the opening weekend, I also enjoyed a very informative talk from an Explainer, discussing how the Soyuz rocket works and how Tim came back down to Earth after 6 months on the ISS. it was great to see Tim’s Sokol KV-2 spacesuit, which would have kept him alive had the rocket depressurised during his journey, on display alongside the Soyuz as well.
I followed this by taking part in the Space Descent VR Experience. This is a fantastic virtual reality encounter, which puts you in charge of the Soyuz capsule as it returns to Earth. Narrated by Tim Peake, it is a truly incredible 360-degree experience that gives you a detailed insight into what Tim went through to get home. I would highly recommend it!