FIVE years ago this week, Major Tim Peake blasted off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).

The Russian rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in front of the world’s media following weeks of preparation.

Major Peake, 43, made history as the first fully British professional astronaut to be employed by a space agency.

In his final message to his followers on Twitter at the time, Major Peake said: “Last tweet before launch – GO for flight! Thanks for all the good luck messages – phenomenal support!”

And the UK Space Agency tweeted pictures of the astronaut signing a door and receiving a blessing before the crew suited up and prepared to board the spaceship.

Also that week, a girl who was given just minutes to live as a baby defied all the doctors to celebrate her 18th birthday.

Nobody knew how Chloe Miller, from Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, survived the first few weeks of her life.

But despite being taken off life support when she was a few days old because she was thought to have no chance of surviving, Chloe was 18 on Tuesday, December 15 2015.

Chloe, who studies catering at Darlington College, celebrated with parents Annie and John, friends and family at a party.

Mrs Miller said at the time: “When she was little it never even entered my mind she would be 18. We only ever thought about one day at a time, never about any future. I think it was when she was about two that we started to see some improvement in her.

“Doctors do talks and use her as an example and they’re all bewildered. They can’t answer my questions on why she’s here because they’ve never seen it before.”

Meanwhile, tributes poured in for North-East broadcasting veteran Kathy Secker who died at her home aged 70.

Her body was discovered by police at her home in Jesmond, Newcastle, after she failed to arrive for a day out with a friend.

Kathy moved into television in 1979 when she won a competition to be the new face of Tyne Tees and soon became a household name.

She left the station in 1985 before returning five years later. In 1993, she became chief announcer alongside Bill Steel.

Kathy presented Tonight in 1996 and several programmes, including Kathy & Co, for Tyne Tees until she joined the BBC.

She was loved by a generation of viewers as the presenter of the birthday slot announcing celebratory messages from viewers twice a day.

Her family said in a statement at the time: “We know Kathy was held the hearts of many in the North-East from her years presenting with Tyne Tees and BBC Radio, and for her work founding and building Grace House in Sunderland.

“To her family though she was just a much loved mum, sister, step-mum and Glamma.”