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Why Tim Peake's Principia Mission Is Not Just About Space

15/01/2016 08:20 | Updated 15 January 2016

In a world where hashtags determine the mood of the day and orange hearts shape online popularity, we are in desperate need of something that will inspire us for more than six seconds.

One minute our minds are taken up with the goings-on at a puddle - #DrummondPuddleWatch - and the next minute we're in deep mourning over the death of a beloved legend.

Nothing wrong with that of course but it all seems so fleeting. Nothing sticks.

We move on from topic to topic after devoting a mere 140 characters to the subject (at best) or summing up enough energy to hit the grey thumbs-up button on a mediocre Facebook post.

What's worse is, even that little show of solidarity is probably because our eyes scanned the Facebook post long enough to form a half-baked opinion on what that particular "friend" (who is probably just an acquaintance) said.

Secretly, I do love social media, although I won't blame you if you think otherwise.

A study released in May 2015 explained how the age of the smartphone has shrunk our attention span from 12 seconds to eight. Goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds apparently. Oh the shame.

One person, who appears to have captured the nation's attention, and most importantly kept it, for longer than 15 seconds is Major Tim Peake.

You may think well, obviously - he is a British Astronaut making history. If he can't occupy the Twitterati on more than one occasion, no one can.

What makes Peake special however, is not his ability to take centre stage on social media. It's his ability to shape an entity much more precious and long lasting - the future generation.

On Friday 8 January, pupils from Sandringham School in St Albans made contact with the Major. It was an exciting classroom lesson in how to keep science and technology alive for tomorrow's world.

Today, Peake will embark on a historic spacewalk while we watch with bated breath.

All these events broadcast under the Principia mission have undoubtedly inspired a few young people to follow in the astronauts' footsteps - a pathway that will exist regardless of hashtags, likes and retweets.

On December 13 2015, the government released a National Space Policy outlining the future of space exploration for the UK.

In it, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills wrote: the value of the space sector in the UK has grown from £6.5billion in 2007 to £11.8billion in 2014.

"Our ambition is that the sector should grow to £40billion by 2030."

Describing the value of the Principia mission, he added it "delivers cutting edge science and inspires the next generation of scientists and engineers."

While some would argue that Peake's mission is about politicising the space race, I would say it is achieving a far more valuable outcome: keeping the tomorrow's minds occupied and inspired.

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