Horticulture students at Kingston Maurward College are taking part in a national Rocket Science experiment where ordinary plant seeds that have been taken into space will be grown to see if anything has changed from being normal seeds to modified seeds. The exciting experiment is a partnership between the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening and the European Space Agency’s ‘out of this world’ educational project.
The seeds were launched on 2nd September 2015 on the Soyuz 44S with the European Space Agency. The planned date in which they should be returning to Earth is on March 2016 with Astronaut Scott Kelly – head of the six month operation taking care of them in microgravity.
This research will help students understand if sending seeds into space really does help growth of plants or if it gives them some other ability that may prove useful in the growing process in the future.
Participating students across the country will be given two seed trays – one with seeds taken to space, the other regular earth based seeds. Students will try to find out which is which, and understand good plant growth such as soil, water and light and be introduced to new things in plant growth such as process of gravity.
2kg of seeds will be taken in to space and 100 seeds will go back to each of 10,000 different schools taking part in this project in the UK. Each school will also be given 100 seeds that have remained on Earth.
The seed packets will be colour coded but the schools will not be told which is which until the national results have been published.
Teachers’ packs will be distributed by the RHS and are suitable for all ages. These packs will get to the schools before April 2016 ready for the experiment in May.
Each seed will have a letter and a number code and pupils will take nine measurements over thirty five days collecting data as instructed on germination, growth, leaf count and plant height at frequent intervals. Recordings of the experiment will be entered on the data collection website for comparison across all participating schools.
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, and Maths) and Horticulture.
The Rocket Science project, will give around half a million UK students the chance to learn how science in space contributes to our knowledge of life on earth, using the invaluable expertise of the European Space Agency (ESA) and RHS Science team.
Kingston Maurward College Head of Horticulture, Joanna Jeffery, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this exciting venture, which highlights the technical scientific aspects of horticulture and the fundamental: growing food.
“Jobs in horticulture are developing and we can only wonder if one of our students may end up growing food in space – it really is like the film Martian – life perhaps does imitate art!”
For more information about the RHS/ ESA Rocket Science project go to schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/news/News-results/National/2015/May/rocket-science