LONDON -British astronaut Tim Peake shows the BBC’s Pallab Ghosh around a detailed mock-up of the International Space Station’s science lab

He wants the nation to be part of his ground control team. “We are going to get the public involved in naming the mission, designing the (badge) for the mission and doing things like designing a meal for an astronaut for a day that will get cooked and sent up for me to eat,” he said.

The idea behind the meal for Tim is to get people thinking about science through nutrition, minerals and calorific content. There will be activities involving sport and exercise too. I met Tim at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne. It is located in the outskirts of the city, in the midst of a desolate industrial complex which seemed to be fading into the grey German drizzle.

The misery of the landscape is blasted away though by the incredible sense of optimism one feels on entering the astronaut training centre. Its vast hall seems like an untidy giant’s play room, strewn with life-sized replicas of parts of the ISS. Tim grinned at my bemusement and showed me through to where he’ll be working - a true-to-life representation of the Columbus module, which is Europe’s laboratory in space. Here, he is taught how to take apart a smoke detector and change its filter. Routine maintenance will be a large part of his job. “There’s lots of unglamorous work to do. At times we are plumbers, at times we’re electricians. We do all sorts of jobs,” he said. There was a time when all you needed to be an astronaut was to be very brave. Now you need to be able to do much more.