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Brit blasts off into space

The Telegraph reports that British-born astronaut Nicholas Patrick blasted off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Saturday and headed toward the International Space Station. “Its twin booster rockets aflame, the shuttle lit up the night sky as it blazed towards space in an eight-minute ascent to reach an orbiting speed of 17,400 mph.”

Inside the shuttle, Patrick and the other six astronauts were grinning. They were heading off to handle "an ambitious cosmic rewiring job."

Dr Patrick, educated at Harrow and Cambridge University, will be the primary operator of Discovery's robotic arm, hooking up the space station to the solar power module delivered by Atlantis in September. “The mission is considered among the most difficult of the 19 assembly flights Nasa has flown to the space station," and they are in a race against time.

Discovery, apparently, is in the position of Cinderella's coach. It will turn into a pumpkin unless it returns before midnight on New Year's Eve. In what seems like an odd quirk for a fairly sophisticated space shuttle, "the new calendar year will confuse its onboard computers.”

Patrick intends to succeed. His wife and three children will be very glad to see him return. Another Briton, Colin Michael Foale, holds the record for time spent in space by a US citizen – over a year. Foale was the Commander of International Space Station Expedition 8.