01/12/2015 14:15 GMT | Updated 01/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Briton Tim Peake To Spend Extra Month In Space

British astronaut Tim Peake's mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been extended by a month, the European Space Agency (Esa) has announced.

Major Peake, who blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 15, will now stay in space for 173 days until June 5 next year.

The mission will be the sixth longest undertaken by an Esa astronaut.

Major Peake and his two travelling companions, Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, arrived in Baikonur yesterday.

Today the trio were due to make their first visit to the tiny Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft that will carry them into orbit.

The run-up to the launch will also include preparing experiments, undergoing medical check-ups and physical training, and reviewing plans for the six-hour flight to the space station.

During this time the crew will minimise contact with people to avoid any risk of falling ill and spreading infection to their colleagues in space.

Major Peake's mission - named Principia after Sir Isaac Newton's ground-breaking text outlining the laws of motion and gravity - will involve conducting a large number of experiments including growing blood vessel cells, protein crystals and rocket leaves in weightless conditions, and investigating the properties of metals.

Like his colleagues, he has been trained to perform spacewalks if work has to be done outside the space station.