In 2015, Tim Peake made history by becoming the first British ESA Astronaut to visit the International Space Station. Last month he lent his blinding, and very inspiring star power to the opening of a brand new £100 million space research hub, right in the heart of Leicester.
Space Park Leicester had its official opening on March 14, and is expected to boost the regional economy by £750m a year.
It is also estimated to create 2,500 jobs, and to boost the city’s reputation further as a major force of innovation on the international space industry stage.
Before the countdown to the centre’s grand opening began, Major Tim Peake gave a rousing speech to the many scientists, researchers and industry guests who were gathered.
Dozens of schoolchildren also sat in awe of the space-going hero.
“I was given a tour of the facilities this morning and what struck me was the energy, the enthusiasm and the excitement from everybody here,” said Major Peake, before speaking about the importance of Space Park Leicester, and the growing importance of the space industry in general.
“Space is such a growing part of the UK sector, and it’s going to be hugely important to our economy for local jobs,” he added.
“But more important than that, after speaking to the young people here this morning, seeing their faces light up with the kind of things that are right here on their doorstep – being able to see how exciting space is, what science can be achieved here, and the relevance of something where they can see their futures involved here at Space Park Leicester.”
Speaking on the day, George Freeman, Government Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said that the launch of Space Park Leicester wasn’t just an important day for Leicester, but also an important day for the UK space economy, a 16 billion pound sector, which is set to double in the next few years.
“It’s a tribute to Leicester’s leadership in space technology in the last few decades,” he said of the facility, which sits in Corporation Road, close to the National Space Centre.
“It’s the most advanced hub for integrated careers and industrial placements in the UK space sector.”
Space Park Leicester is the result of years of planning, with an original vision set out for the facility seven years ago.
The University of Leicester, which has been involved in space missions since 1967, has been one of the major players at the heart of its fruition.
“I’m really pleased that we have completed this successfully even though we’ve been through a pandemic,” said Nishan Canagarajah, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester.
“It’s tremendously exciting.”