Students in Nescot’s Preparation for Life and Work (PfLaW) department have planted seeds that have flown through space as part of a unique experiment to assess the effects of space travel on plants.
A group planted the seeds last month, and will be comparing them against a batch that has stayed on Earth in a ‘blind’ test.
The results of the experiment, being carried out by half a million people in 10,000 schools and colleges in the UK, will be entered into a website designed by a Nescot Computer Science undergraduate.
“The students had great fun planting the seeds, and we’re really excited to see how the plants from the different batches compare,” said PfLaW lecturer Caroline Knight.
“They absolutely love the idea that the seeds have been in space and orbited the Earth and are now at Nescot.
“They’re going to learn such a lot of skills, from understanding how plants grow to measuring them and using websites, so it’s a really exciting project to be involved in.”
The Rocket Science initiative is being run by the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK Space Agency, with British Astronaut Tim Peake taking 2kg of seeds to the International Space Station.
The seeds spent several months orbiting Earth at 17,000mph and were then sent, labelled only as ‘A’ or ‘B’, to the participants, to be grown under strict conditions alongside a less well-travelled batch.
Students across the UK will log their findings on a website with experts interpreting them to see the effect space travel has had.
The website was designed by 31-year-old Luke Cama as part of his final project on his Computer Science degree, in which he obtained First Class Honours.
At Nescot, the rocket seeds are being grown by students on the Entry 2-level Next Steps in the Land-based Industry course, many of whom have autism and speech and language difficulties.
Nescot’s Preparation for Life and Work department runs courses for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, as well as people without formal qualifications.