Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Astronaut warns aliens exist and could be living among us

Helen Sharman became the first Briton in orbit in 1991 after winning a place on a private space programme

British astronaut Helen Sharman worked as a chemist before applying to become her country's first astronaut in space. AFP
British astronaut Helen Sharman worked as a chemist before applying to become her country's first astronaut in space. AFP

The idea of extra-terrestrial life visiting Earth has long been the stuff of science fiction but one British space pioneer says she believes aliens could be walking among us.

Helen Sharman, 56, travelled to Russia's Mir space station 28 years ago and spent eight days in orbit.

“Aliens exist, there’s no two ways about it. There are so many billions of stars out there in the universe that there must be all sorts of different forms of life,” Ms Sharman said.

“Will they be like you and me, made up of carbon and nitrogen? Maybe not.”

During her time in space, she performed experiments, including medical and agricultural tests, and spoke with British schoolchildren by radio.

She learnt of the opportunity to become the first British space explorer after a private space programme, called Project Juno, was advertised on the radio.

She was selected for the project from more than 13,000 applicants.

“As my mum used to tell me: ‘If you don’t try something, you’ll never know what might have happened,’” she said.

Ms Sharman worked as a chemist for a chocolate manufacturer before her space mission.

Nicknamed “The Girl From Mars” by British media because of her work for the confectionery company, Ms Sharman became a national hero.

But she said her achievement was sometimes forgotten after British astronaut Tim Peake travelled to the International Space Station in 2015.

“When Tim Peake went into space, some people simply forgot about me,” she said.

“People often describe me as the first British woman in space, but I was actually the first British person.

“It’s telling that we would otherwise assume it was a man.”

But Ms Sharman said she was proud of her achievement.

“A man going first would be the norm, so I’m thrilled that I got to upset that order,” she said.

Updated: January 6, 2020 03:52 PM

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