Blog | To infinity and beyond!
Are you an aspiring rocket scientist? One lucky Scout Group has lent a helping hand to British astronaut Tim Peake, participating in research with the potential to change the future of deep space exploration.
When Tim Peake blasts off from Earth in December, he will become the first British citizen to be a European Space Agency astronaut. He’ll live onboard the International Space Station for the next five months, running experiments to help us better understand whether human life can survive, grow food and undertake activities in zero-gravity.
One part of his mission – called ‘Principa’ – will explore growing food in space. This is one of the key challenges of sending humans into deep space, many lightyears from Earth: how do you ensure astronauts have enough food to sustain them throughout their journey? Every ounce of equipment taken on a spaceflight is precious – there is no room for extra weight. And if you’ve ever had to carry your weekly shop up two flights of stairs, you’ll know all that food gets heavy. Sustaining a crew travelling for years in a shuttle is virtually impossible if they are not able to grow their own food on board.
So, to provide some answers to the question of whether being in space affects how food grows, the UK Space Agency has been working with the Royal Horticultural Society. In September, 2kg of salad seeds (a variety of Rocket, naturally) hitched a ride on a shuttle, bound for the International Space Station. Since then, the seeds have been whizzing around space at 17,000mph, orbiting the Earth once every 90 minutes. Once Tim Peake arrives, he will look after the seeds, ensuring they stay safe, before they all return to Earth together in March 2016.
At this point, the fun will begin for 27th Lincoln Scout Group, who have been selected to take part in experiments with the intergalactic Rocket seeds. They will join around 500,000 children and young people – from schools, colleges, clubs and communities across the UK – who will be helping space researchers answer historic questions. It’s not too late to apply to be part of the Rocket Science research: if you think your Scout Group would like to get involved, you can apply through the Royal Horticultural Society’s website.
27th Lincoln Scouts will be sent 100 Rocket seeds that have been to the International Space Station, experiencing the stresses of microgravity - the long-term effects of which we still do not fully understand. The Group will also receive 100 Rocket seeds that have been prepared here on Earth. From the outside the two samples will look identical, but the test will be to see if they are different when they are grown.
Members of Beavers, Cubs and Scouts will be growing the seeds and recording the size and appearance of the plants on a huge national database. The results will be examined by statisticians at the UK Space Agency, to see if there is a difference between the samples. It’s too early to predict the result, but this groundbreaking research has the potential to be – literally - out of this world.
Are you getting involved in the Rocket Science project or the Principa Mission? Tell us about it via our social media channels. Keep an eye out for 27th Lincoln Scouts’ guest blog on the UK Space Agency website, coming soon.