Turning 500,000 UK children into space biologists
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening has partnered with the UK Space Agency to embark on an innovative educational project at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May 19 -23, 2015).
The project, Rocket Science, will give around half a million children the chance to learn how investment in human space exploration contributes to our knowledge of life on Earth, using the invaluable expertise of the European Space Agency (ESA) and RHS Science team.
Rocket Science will involve 2kg of an as-yet un-named cultivar of rocket seeds (Eruca sativa, a popular salad variety) sent to the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake's six-month Principia mission.
After several months on board, orbiting the planet at 17,000mph, the seeds will be returned to Earth and sent to thousands of UK schools, alongside a batch of seeds of the same cultivar that have stayed on Earth. Over the following months pupils will grow and compare the seeds as they embark on a voyage of discovery to see whether we can sustain human life in space through the production of our own food.
The results of the nationwide citizen science experiment will then be analysed to discover whether space travel has impacted on the growth of the seeds.
To introduce the project, an inspiring exhibition will be on show in the Discovery Zone at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, complete with a real-life Mars Rover and a team of ESA's leading scientists on hand to talk about their work in this field.
Set across four zones, interactive displays will take the visitor through the past, present and future of plants in space, discovering the important role scientists play in helping plants to thrive in inhospitable conditions, how space exploration helps solve problems on Earth and even the plants astronauts need to survive long-term missions. ■