British astronaut Tim Peake may have spent 186 days in space, but this week he dropped by and visited another special place – a school in Swindon.

The first British European Space Agency astronaut gave pupils at Great Western Academy an insight into his time at the International Space Station and answered their questions about what space is really like.

Maj Peake spent an hour and a half at the school before heading off to the UK Space Agency's Swindon site.

The students were thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss space with Britain’s best-known astronaut.

In a motivational message to the youngsters he said: “There are many routes to achieving goals in life. You just need passion to try your best and work your hardest.”

The school’s head teacher Graham Davis said: “It’s not every day you get to spend time with someone who has been into space and the students were very excited to ask him some questions about his time aboard the International Space Station.”

“They asked some excellent questions and Tim was kind enough to give his time to provide detailed answers.”

The astronaut was asked for his thoughts on the commercialisation of space travel, whether his health was affected by being in space and “What does space smell like?”

He told them space smelt like “burnt toast or a barbecue” and described how his muscles started to weaken during his six months stay.

Great Western Academy’s school houses are named after prominent space scientists, and Maj Peake is one of them.

He contacted staff about making a visit when he became aware of the honour.

He became officially the first Briton to make a spacewalk in 2016. But he is not the first British astronaut to visit the Swindon school.

Helen Sharman, who spent a week orbiting the planet inside the Mir Space Station 30 years ago, opened the sixth form in 2019 and gave an inspirational talk to the students.

The third house was named after space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who opened the academy.

Head of sixth form David Smith said: “Having people like Tim Peake speak to our students is very important for raising student aspirations and showing them what can be achieved with hard work and perseverance”.

One parent said: “Both of my children had so much excitement and enthusiasm when they told us about his visit today. What a great opportunity for them to have.”

Another added: “I loved hearing my daughter talk so excitedly about him.”