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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 01:08 GMT
British-born astronaut given CBE
Michael Foale, PA
Michael Foale is said to think of Cambridge as his home town
British-born astronaut Michael Foale is rewarded in the New Year Honours with a CBE in the diplomatic list.

Dr Foale, who in 1995 became the first person from the UK to walk in space, moved to the US more than 20 years ago to pursue a career as an astronaut.

He is now the American record holder for the most cumulative time in space, having clocked up 374 days and 11 hours.

Last April, Dr Foale returned to Earth after spending six months on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Although he is now an American citizen, Dr Foale is said to think of Cambridge as his home town.

Escaping death

He has an impressive catalogue of space flights. Highlights include a four-hour, 39-minute spacewalk outside the Russian space station Mir in 1995.

In 1997, the Nasa astronaut spent 145 days living and working on Mir and narrowly escaped death when it was struck by a cargo ship.

Michael Foale in space, AP
In 1995 Michael Foale became the first Briton to walk in space
He later told the BBC News website: "It weighed about seven tonnes so the impact was very noticeable. We heard a big thud and I remember having a severe adrenaline rush and thinking about how much longer do we have.

"I felt the fall of the air pressure in my ears and realised it was fairly severe but not so severe that we wouldn't have time to evacuate. It all started to fit together and a plan even started to form in all our minds that we would be OK - or we could be OK."

During his six-month stay on the ISS, 47-year-old Dr Foale found the time to talk to pupils from his old school, The Kings School, Canterbury.

He told them no simulation could prepare him for the beauty of space.

"It's pretty close as far as how to use the equipment but it's nothing like the real thing in terms of the environment," he said.

"The weightlessness, the view, the brightness of the Sun - it is nothing that can be simulated."

Ecology recognised

Another eminent scientist to be honoured is John Lawton, chief executive of the Natural Environmental Research Council (Nerc), who was knighted for his services to ecological science.

Dr Lawton is a biologist and naturalist whose research focuses on the population dynamics and ecology of birds and insects.

In the last decade, his work has emphasised the impacts of global environmental change on biodiversity.

He was chairman of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for five years and is currently a vice-president of both RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology.

Cheryll Tickle, professor of developmental biology at the University of Dundee, has been awarded a CBE.

She has conducted extensive work on the processes that control limb development in embryos.

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