How to survive in space – Lift off! (2015)

Kevin Fong

Kevin Fong explores and probes second by second what it takes to ‘lift off’ into space.

A wine glass tipped on its side with a ping pong ball inside it
Credit: Royal Institution

Lecture 1 – Lift off!

In the first of the three annual CHRISTMAS LECTURES space doctor, Kevin Fong, explores and probes second by second what it takes to ‘Lift off’ into space. With Tim Peake, Britain's first astronaut on the International Space Station, only days into his 6 month mission, he helps Kevin answer what keeps astronauts safe and on track as they're propelled into orbit.  

How do you control the energy of 300 tonnes of liquid fuel? What happens to your body if you don’t wear a spacesuit? And how do you catch up with a space station travelling at 17,500 mph to finally get inside? 

With explosive live experiments, guest astronauts in the Theatre and planetary scientist, Monica Grady, direct from the launch pad in Kazakhstan, learn this and more as we recreate those thrilling minutes of ‘Lift off’. 


In December 2015, Tim Peake became the first Briton in space for more than 20 years and a new member of the European Astronaut Corps. As Tim adjusts to life onboard the International Space Station (ISS), Kevin Fong's CHRISTMAS LECTURES take us on a journey from planet Earth into Low Earth Orbit and beyond.

This is the story of human survival against all the odds; the story of how science, medicine and engineering come together to help answer our biggest questions about Life, the Earth, the Universe and our place in it.

From artificial gravity and greenhouses in space to plasma drives and zero-G surgical suits, these lectures reveal how what once was the stuff of science fiction is fast becoming today’s science fact.

Throughout the three-part series, Kevin is be accompanied by special guest appearances from ISS astronauts who will reveal what daily life is like 400 kilometres above the Earth. We will explore the technology and techniques that help them stay safe and healthy, and discover scientific experiments taking place on the ISS which are helping to stretch the limits of our understanding of human physiology and survival in a way that no experiment back on Earth could.