Posted on March 30th 2016

Read more - Tim Peake Rocket Science Experiment

Berkeley school children have been selected to help British astronaut Tim Peake  with one of his scientific experiments.

He wants pupils to plant rocket seeds that have been in orbit with him, and compare their growth with rocket plants that have stayed on Earth.

Mr Peake has outlined details of the project in a message from the space station which will be sent to schools.

The study will help find ways to grow food in space which will be essential if humans travel to distant planets.

In his message, the European Space Agency (Esa) astronaut explains that he will be sending more than a million seeds back to Earth in a month's time.

In his hands are a bag of seeds which occasionally float away. Unperturbed, he gently pulls them back towards him and continues.

"This experiment will aim to see if microgravity can affect the growth mechanisms in seeds," he adds.

The seeds will be distributed to up to 10,000 schools. Pupils will compare the growth of the space seeds with others that have remained on Earth.

This comparison has never before been made on this scale, according to Dr Alistair Griffiths, the scientific director of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)

"This will be genuinely useful science," he told BBC News. "There will be impacts from zero gravity and from cosmic radiation and no one really knows what those will be.

"So the results really will contribute to the science of how to grow plants in space".

The massed experiment, called Rocket Science, could help researchers to develop hardier varieties of crops to be grown in space.

Back to top