BRITISH astronaut Tim Peake’s time on the International Space Station is being closely watched by a Bournemouth removal company which can claim it was there at the start.

Staff at Britannia Leatherbarrows were astonished by a phone call in 2009 from Major Peake’s wife Rachel, asking for a quote for a move abroad.

David Bigglestone, sales executive, with the firm, recalled: “We said ‘Where are you moving to?’ and she said ‘We’re moving to Germany. My husband’s been selected for the space programme’.

“It was really quite something. I remember thinking ‘Wow, we’re going to move a family where the husband is going to be in space’.”

Father-of-two Major Peake beat 8,000 applicants to land one of six places on the European Space Agency’s astronaut training programme in May 2009.

He joined the programme that September and completed astronaut basic training over a year later.

Mr Bigglestone said the relocation from Wiltshire to Germany had been a “relatively standard move” and had gone smoothly.

Selection for the training programme did not guarantee that Major Peake would end up in space, but he made history on December 15 by becoming the first 'official' British astronaut to blast off for the International Space Station.

Mr Bigglestone said: “When we were sat around watching it, I was nudging my wife saying ‘We moved him, you know’.

“This was just part of his relocation, but to us it was a big thing. We’re unlikely to get another call from somebody to say ‘I’m going to be an astronaut’.”

Major Peake, 43, spent 20 years in the army, serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan before he became a commercial pilot.

Although other Britons have gone into space, they have had to change citizenship in order to fly with NASA.

He is due to take part in a space walk on Friday, January 15, and to return to Earth on June 5.