SPACE’S poster boy Major Tim Peake has called Harwell Campus a "central hub" of scientific discovery.

The British astronaut captured the hearts and minds of the public during his six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS) through social media and his live broadcasts.

Speaking at a press conference today at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne Germany, just days after landing back to Earth, the astronaut was quick to hail the efforts and importance of Harwell Campus near Didcot.

He told The Oxford Mail: "Harwell Campus is really important, I love visiting there and I look forward to the next visit there as well, which I hope will be fairly soon.

"It is really a central hub in the UK of what we are doing in so many areas in our space centre – it is a very exciting place to visit.

"Now the ESA is based on the Harwell Campus as well it gives it that extra element, and I’m delighted with what is going on there and I really look forward to going back there very soon."

Funny and engaging, the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut walked into a room of rapturous applause as he spoke at his first press conference since returning to Earth.

The father-of-two added: "We have a huge space centre in the UK, it is very dynamic and it is going to be an incredibly successful space centre but to be even more so we need to be inspiring the young minds to show them that you can be an astronaut, you can join ESA and you can go to the moon."

An integral part of Major Peake’s Principia mission, alongside his 250 experiments, was to inspire and engage thousands of schoolchildren through competitions and live classroom broadcasts.

Major Peake said: "I’m so thrilled so many children joined in this mission, I have loved every single bit of it.

"And really I’m delighted they got involved and I hope it encourages them to explore space further.

"But I think the message really to take away is, is that you are looking at a boy who left school at the age of 19 with three below average A-Levels and I’ve just got back from a six-month mission to space, so my message to them is: 'don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t'."

Nicola Blackwood, West Oxford and Abingdon MP and chairwoman of the science and technology committee, called Major Peake an "inspiration".

She said: "We must ensure that public enthusiasm for space is harnessed and that the inspirational value of his mission is used to foster an enduring interest in space as well as science and engineering more broadly."

Tim Peake's Q&A

What was going through your mind while you were landing?
A: "I was told the craft we were in would stop with a big jolt as the shoot at the back was deployed. But I did not feel it, it was very gentle. For a second I was concerned but then I looked over at my crewmate Yuri and he was just sat there so relaxed and I thought, if it hadn’t deployed Yuri wouldn’t be looking like that."

How do you feel now that you have returned to Earth?
A: "It is lovely, it is wonderfully familiar, it is everything I have missed. You do think about earth in space and you do miss fresh air and the smells.  But then when you’re on earth you think about space and when you’re in space you think about earth.
"You do not get any weather in space. Any weather down here feels unique and feels very special."

Are you voting in or out of Europe?
A: "It is an important decision to make and so Thursday is a huge day. 
"But voting is a very personal thing and I believe it should remain a personal choice. I’m not here to tell you which way I’m going to vote on Thursday."

What are you doing to re-build yourself physically after this mission?
A: "It is very important to go through the correct rehabilitation It all needs to be built back up, so I will be running, swimming, cycling."

If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who is going to go up to space in the next six months what would it be?
A: "The only advice to give is to enjoy every minute of it. You already you need to know everything before you fly and it is just a case of cementing those memories and take time to enjoy it."

How was it like using an earth toilet again?
A: "That is one of the things we do look forward to.
"Gravity is a horror when you land except in a few cases when gravity is your friend."

Talk us through your space walk, what was going through your head?
A: "From a professional point of view we had rehearsed this so often and it was so well choreographed, we had practiced virtual reality training at the European Space Agency.
"It is like a rock climb there are few parts where I was not happy with this big SSU which weighs an awful lot so I spent hours working out my path, so you know that space walk down to every minute detail.
"When you get out there you are actually quite relaxed because finally after all that anticipation, it is wonderful to be outside executing the plan you trained for."

You’ve acted as a human guinea pig with experimenting on yourself in space - can you explain how that will continue in the next six months?
A: "The human guinea pig is a huge part of what we’re doing – human physiology and life science. 
"There is an enormous amount to learn about the human body that can have benefits to people back here on Earth. 
"I’ve already had two blood draws, I’ve had muscle biopsy, I had hemorrhoid scans, this afternoon we will be looking at bone density. 
"So this first week back is really important to get all those base line data collection of how I am having been in space for six months.
"Bone density will go on for up to two years for recovery, so it is very important to learn as much as we can."