The last thing you could accuse 44-year-old Tim Peake of being is lost for words. But he might well be for the next few days.
For the past six months he has captivated the country with his constant communications from space.
But one of the side-effects of returning to terra firma from the International Space Stationt is losing the ability to speak normally. In space, the lips and tongue also adjust to the weightlessness, so when astronauts return, they often struggle to speak. This would be something of a blow to his parents, Nigel, and Angela who have flown to Germany to be reunited with their son.
The astronauts were also expected to need a helping hand to get out of the capsule. Other side-effects are vertigo and dizziness as the brain tries to re-learn what’s up from what’s down.
Although weakened muscles recover quickly after long spells in space, it can take up to three years for bones to return to normal. Despite their strict exercise regime, astronauts on average lose up to 1.5 per cent of their bone mass for each month spent in space.
During his mission Tim, has taken part in more than 250 experiments, performed a spacewalk, presented a Brit award, run the London Marathon on a treadmill, and received an honour from the Queen.
The former helicopter test pilot became the first Briton to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) as a European Space Agency (Esa) astronaut on December 15 last year.
Today he returns home with American colleague Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.
They are making the potentially hazardous trip crammed into the tiny Soyuz TMA descent capsule. Hitting the atmosphere at more than 17,000mph, the three men are relying on friction, parachutes and retro-rockets to ensure a safe landing in the vast, flat scrubland of the Kazakhstan steppe.
Tim’s mission was named Principia after Sir Isaac Newton’s landmark work describing the laws of motion and gravity. Its primary purpose was to contribute to scientific knowledge by conducting experiments in zero gravity, but Major Peake did much more than that as he constantly kept in touch with the world by Twitter, took part in video-linked Q&A sessions, and engaged in educational activities that reached more than a million schoolchildren.
His success in putting Britain on the space-faring map earned him a unique place in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Becoming the first person to be honoured while in space, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for ‘extraordinary service beyond our planet’.
Speaking from the ISS last week, he said his spacewalk with Col Kopra in January to repair electrical components, was the highlight of his mission.
He added he was looking forward to ‘private time’ with his family, fresh air, and the feeling of raindrops on his face.
He joins the 536 people who have escaped Earth’s confines to witness space – the final frontier.
During his time in space Major Peake worked up to 14 hours a day, participating in more than 250 experiments devised by scientists from around the world.
They included numerous studies of his own body’s responses to the space environment involving his brain, lungs, stomach, muscles, bones, skin, immune system and body clock.
The tests will continue as he begins a lengthy process of rehabilitation back on Earth.
While weakened muscles recover quickly after a long spell in space, it can take up to three years for bones to return to normal. Despite their strict exercise regime, astronauts on average lose up to 1.5% of their bone mass for each month spent in space.