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Astronaut Tim sets seeds of a rocket science challenge

Jenny Winder, News Writer
May 20, 2015, 17:35 UTC

Sen—British astronaut Tim Peake, who will join the crew aboard the International Space Station later this year, wants the help of UK schools to learn more about how to grow food in space.

Two kilograms of seeds of the salad plant Eruca Sativa—commonly known as rocket—will spend six months in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) during Peake's time aboard the orbiting laboratory, before being brought back to Earth.

The seeds will then be sent to thousands of UK schools along with another batch of the same seeds that have remained on Earth. Each school will each receive two packets of 100 seeds to grow and compare to see what effect, if any, microgravity has had on the seeds.

The project, appropriately named "Rocket Science", is being organised back on Earth by the UK Space Agency which has teamed up with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to promote the experiment to schools. Schools can register for the project on the RHS web site.

Researching how the space environment affects food is important preparation for longer duration space missions to Mars and eventually for space colonies to sustain themselves. 

"It’s a huge privilege to be the first British ESA astronaut flying to the International Space Station. During my six-month tour, I’ll be conducting a number of experiments on the International Space Station. I hope that Rocket Science will inspire the next generation to think scientifically, and to consider the fulfilling careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)," Peake said in a statement.

Peake, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, is scheduled to join the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2015.

Crew members currently on board the ISS, as part of Expedition 43, include NASA astronauts Commander Terry Virts and Scott Kelly, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko.

For details of every human who has been in space since the first spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, including who is in space now and their previous missions, check out Sen’s human spaceflight app.

Rocket Science, will give children the chance to learn how human space exploration contributes to our life on Earth. Credit: UK Space Agency