Hampstead schoolchildren grow seeds sent into space for Rocket Science project

Expedition 45 Commander SCOTT KELLY took this selfie photograph during a 7-hour and 16-minute spacew

Expedition 45 Commander SCOTT KELLY took this selfie photograph during a 7-hour and 16-minute spacewalk. This was the first spacewalk for both Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren; the two will venture outside the International Space Station for the second time on next Friday. Kelly becomes the U.S. astronaut who has lived in space the longest during a single U.S. spaceflight, and on Monday, Nov. 2, the crew celebrates the 15th year of a continuous human presence in space aboard the station. (Credit Image: © NASA/ZUMA Wire) - Credit: Zuma Press

Young gardeners are preparing for a close encounter of the herbaceous kind when they attempt to grow seeds from outer space.

Members of the Junior Branch Gardening Club at University College School (UCS) in Hampstead and pupils at Torriano Primary School in Kentish Town are among 10,000 school groups across the UK about to embark on a voyage of discovery.

More than 2kg of rocket salad leaf seeds were flown to the International Space Station (ISS) in September, and will spend months in micro-gravity before returning to Earth in March.

The school’s green-fingered youngsters will receive a packet containing 100 of the “alien” seeds. The project is called Rocket Science, launched by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening in partnership with the UK Space Agency.

Michael de Caires, design and technology co-ordinator at the UCS Junior Branch, told Heathman: “We are very excited to be taking part in Rocket Science. This experiment is a fantastic way of teaching pupils to think more scientifically and share their findings with the whole school.”

The young gardeners will grow the space seeds alongside others which haven’t been in orbit to measure the differences between the two over a seven-week period.

The pupils won’t know which packet contains which seeds until all results have been collected by the RHS campaign team and analysed by biostatisticians.

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The experiment has been launched to encourage pupils to think more about how the world could preserve human life on another planet in future, as well as about what astronauts need in order to survive long-term missions in space and the difficulties of growing fresh food in challenging climates. The educational project is part of a programme developed by the UK Space Agency to inspire young people to take up careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and horticulture.

Schools can apply to take part in Rocket Science until March on a first-come-first-serve basis. Apply online at rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening. Follow the project on Twitter @RHSSchools.