Cowley take part in Tim Peake’s Rocket Seed experiment

In September 2015, the Royal Horticultural Society teamed up with the UK Space Agency to send 2kg of rocket seeds to the International Space Station with British astronaut Tim Peake.

The package returned to Earth at the beginning of March and the seeds were distributed to around 10,000 secondary and primary schools, including Cowley, as part of a UK wide science experiment to study the effects of space on the growth of plants.

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In April, Cowley’s Year 8 students planted 100 seeds from a blue packet and 100 seeds from a red packet, but they weren’t told which packet had been to space. The students will now spend just over a month recording growth on a wall chart to see if zero gravity does affect plant growth and development.

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Once the experiment has ended, students will go online and report the data collected. The results will be published in September 2016.

Year 8 students are now eagerly watching the seeds and recording growth changes. According to Cowley’s head of science, Mr Brooks, the students have been “inspired”, especially after Tim Peake ‘liked’ a Tweet from space that the college posted about the seeds!

“There has been a fantastic response to this experiment, from initially watching Tim Peake’s video from space about the project to taking delivery of the seeds. It’s been a popular talking point for the year group over the past few weeks. We’re all really looking forward to seeing the final results at the end of May.”

Scientists hope that by collecting such a large data sample they will be able to further understand how factors such as zero gravity and the lack of microorganisms in the soil, air and water affect plant growth and development. That will, in turn, help them identify which crops will be the best to grow in a “space garden”, providing a sustainable source of food for astronauts.