Interplanetary salad seeds launched into space last September and then returned to Earth have been cultivated by our academies as part of Chichester astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission. Major Peake challenged the students to sow the rocket salad seeds, which orbited the world for six months aboard the International Space Station, to help develop plants for long-haul space voyages.
Professor Seamus Higson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Chichester and a biotechnologist, visited Kingsham Primary School to talk to the Year 5 scientists about their project and the excitement of studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects. He said: ‘This experiment is a fantastic way to teach children about science and will encourage them to follow in the footsteps of Tim Peake – he is, after all, a scientist.’
The experiment, organised by the Royal Horticultural Society and UK Space Agency, was set up to investigate the effects of weightlessness and radiation on plants. 2kg of the space-travelled rocket salad seeds were sent alongside packets of British-grown seeds to 8,500 UK schools to examine the variances caused by microgravity storage.
Twenty Year 6 pupils at Fernhurst Primary School took part and class teachers Mrs Nicola Mackey and Mrs Libby Isaac said: ‘The children have found the seed project fascinating. We are very excited to be taking part in Rocket Science, particularly as it links to the mission of Chichester astronaut Tim Peake.’
The pupils had no idea which packet of seeds had been into space but Sammy, of Year 5 at Kingsham Primary School, believed the cosmic leaves had withered quicker than the earth equivalents. Sammy said: ‘I think they have shrivelled up because there is no air in space. This was fun because my favourite subject is science and when I grow up I want to do more experiments in space like Tim Peake and maybe go to the Moon.’
After Tim’s return to Earth last week it was disclosed that the Blue packets of seeds were the space seeds and, although the official results of the experiment will not be disclosed by the RHS and UK Space Agency until September, the majority of our academies reported that the Red seeds grew more strongly.
Berewood Primary School’s KS1 pupils were the youngest of our Academy Trust scientists, whilst at Mill Chase Academy Year 7 secondary students also joined the experiment. Mrs Esther Pittaway, Curriculum Leader for Science at MCA said: ‘Rocket Science prompted us to think about how we could preserve human life on another planet in future, what astronauts need to survive long-term missions in space, and the difficulties of growing fresh food in challenging climates.’
At The Flying Bull Academy 36 pupils took part during Friday Flying Bull University (FBU) sessions and at the Gardening Club. Lead TA Mrs Metcalfe said: 'We are growing the largest seedlings on to plant outside in our vegetable plot and hopefully we can enjoy a salad at our last gardening session!’
Class teacher Julia Bedford, who organised the Kingsham Primary School experiment with Governors Jo Bennett and Jo Taylor, said the class has been captivated: ‘The children have been totally engrossed in the investigation and it has furthered their thinking about STEM which has been great for their learning. Having Professor Higson who is a real-life scientist visit our school has been an inspiration to them all.’
The cosmic kernels were farmed by pupils of Mill Chase Academy, Fernhurst Primary School, The Flying Bull Academy, Berewood Primary School and Kingsham Primary School.