Space rocket on course for school

It could be said gardening’s not exactly rocket science, but Ballinderry Primary School knows better.

Pupils there are making ready for a long-distance delivery offering a literally out-of-this-world opportunity to, just as literally, sow the seeds of scientific discovery.

Ballinderry Primary is one of up to 10,000 schools set to receive a packet of 100 seeds that have spent months in microgravity aboard the International Space Station on Soyuz 44S.

Two kilograms of rocket seeds were flown to the station in September as part of a nationwide science experiment launched by the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and the UK Space Agency.

They are expected to return to their roots in March this year.

Under the ‘Rocket Science’ project, participating schoolchildren will grow the seeds alongside others that haven’t been to space and measure the differences over seven weeks.

The children won’t know which packet contains which seeds until all results have been collected by the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and analysed by professional biostatisticians.

The experiment will enable pupils to think more about how human life might be preserved on another planet in the future, what astronauts need to survive long-term space missions and the difficulty in growing fresh food in challenging climates.

Ballinderry Primary’s Miss Bell said the school was excited to be taking part in the project.“This experiment is a fantastic way of teaching our pupils to think more scientifically and share their findings with the whole school,” she said.

“We have been studying Space as our topic and love following (British ESA astronaut)Tim Peake’s adventures.”

Rocket Science is just one in a programme of educational projects developed by the UK Space Agency to celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS.

They are aimed at inspiring young people to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, or STEM, subjects, including horticulture.

Applications to take part in Rocket Science are still open.

Schools and educational groups can apply at Follow the project on Twitter: @RHSSchools #RocketScience.