On 2 September 2015, 2kg of rocket seeds were flown from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on Soyuz 44S - the flight that also delivered European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen and his crew to the International Space Station (ISS). The seeds will remain on the ISS for several months and return to Earth with astronaut Scott Kelly, planned for March 2016.
The seeds are being sent for the RHS project Rocket Science which the Society launched at Chelsea Flower Show in May 2015 in partnership with the UK Space Agency. The project will allow up to 10,000 schools the chance to grow these seeds in 2016 and compare them with seeds that have remained on Earth.
Participating schools will each receive two packets of 100 seeds to grow and compare, and a collection of fun and inspiring curriculum linked teaching resources and posters, tailored according to the age of your pupils (Key Stages 1 and 2 or Key Stages 3, 4 and 5). Using these resources, pupils will embark on a voyage of discovery to see what growing plants in space can teach us about life on Earth and whether we can sustain human life in space through the production of our own food. Schools will be invited to input their results into a national online database so that results can be compared across all schools in the UK. The project is aimed at inspiring pupils to think scientifically and helping them to see the potential of future careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and Horticulture.
Rocket Science is just one of many educational projects celebrating British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS. All projects can be found here: https://principia.org.uk/
On 15 December, Peake will fly to the International Space Station to begin his Principia mission. The mission will use the unique environment of space to run experiments, as well as try out new technologies for future human exploration missions. Peake also wants to use his mission to inspire people, especially children, to develop their interest in science and to learn more about the career opportunities within STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects that it opens up.
The Science Museum event will allow 4,000 children to discover what educational activities are on offer and also get to take part in fun experiments and to watch Peake’s launch to space.
The RHS and Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS) are running an activity with pupils to help them understand the essential vitamins and minerals an astronaut needs and which plants may supply these.
The society will be displaying a full sized cut-out of Tim Peake where pupils can see how each vitamin or mineral is used in the human body. As a group, pupils will plan an Astro Garden based on which vitamins they think are the most important. This comprises of a grid with 16 spaces. Some 20 nutrition cards are available each depicting growing information and nutritional content on a particular edible plant. Pupils will need to decide which plants they would ‘grow’ in their Astro Garden according to nutritional value but also considering cultivation requirements i.e. how much space it needs to grow - an orange tree for instance would take up more spaces on the grid than some onions.
SAPS will be doing simplified vitamin C extraction with students based on healthy eating for space travellers. A basic space diet needs supplementing with vitamins if astronauts are to remain healthy for extended periods of time. In this activity students compare the vitamin C content of different plants to decide which should be grown in space to supplement the astronaut’s diet.