On the 2nd September 2015 two kilograms of rocket seeds (the peppery salad leaf) were blasted into space on a Soyuz 44S along with ESA astronaut Andreas Morgensen, Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency, arriving at the International Space Station two days later. On his arrival at the space station in December 2015 British astronaut Tim Peake took charge of the seeds as part of the Principia mission, the seeds then being returned to Earth with astronaut Scott Kelly in March 2016.
Once back on Earth the seeds were distributed to all UK schools who had signed up for the RHS/UK Space Agency Rocket Science project, every school receiving 100 seeds that had been on the ISS, and 100 seeds that had remained on Earth. The seeds were provided in colour coded packets and the participating schools haven’t been told which have been on an adventure, for that we need to wait until the results have been analysed and published.
It is hoped that the results of the experiment will enable us to learn more about how microgravity and the impact of cosmic radiation affects the growth mechanisms of seeds, ultimately contributing to the science of how to grow plants in space and possibly leading to the development of hardier varieties of food plants, more suited to the harsh environment beyond our home planet.
My daughter’s school, Wimbledon High School, is participating in the experiment and she was fortunate enough to acquire some seedlings that were considered surplus to requirements. These have pride of place at home and are being given lots of TLC. You can see from the image above that there is a definite difference between the plants, the one on the left looking much more vigorous than the one on the right.
As a little experiment myself I conducted a quick twitter poll to see which my followers thought had been in space. The results were interesting in that 77% of respondents thought that the plant on the left was the one that had left Earth, a little counter-intuitive, and probably reflects a bias for all things space among my twitter followers! I'll keep you updated on their progress and let you know which one was the 'space' rocket once results have been announced.