Sshh. Don’t tell Tim Peake, but in November last year we didn’t know who he was…
Fortunately for us, our home-education group, SHEd, in Swindon did! They organised a rocket workshop with Tony Forsythe from the UK Space Agency.
Rocket-building with the UK Space Agency
Tony told us all about Tim and his Principia mission, he helped the children build model rockets and even launched some of them a couple of hundred feet into the air. The children didn’t realise they were making rockets to actually fly, and Caroline was thrilled to be selected to press the launch button for one of them.
Since then Tim Peake has been an ever-growing hero and role model in our house.
Watching the Principia Mission launch
In December we were on the edge of our seats watching the mission launch. It was ridiculously exciting; a combination of our fascination with space, the live TV coverage making us feel we were on the Soyuz ourselves, Caroline’s interest since the workshop and the fact that Tim was Britain’s first European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, the very first British astronaut in space was of course Helen Sharman on a privately funded mission in 1991.
We love Chris Hadfield
Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield’s excellent in-depth commentary and knowledge added immensely to the tension and emotion of the launch (the other commentators would have missed Tim’s actual first moments in space had it not been for Chris!)
Tim Peake Tooth
That evening, just minutes before Tim opened the hatch to enter the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time, Caroline’s tooth, which had been wobbly for weeks, came out! She named it Tim Peake Tooth and wrote a letter to the tooth fairy requesting that the historic tooth be left behind (as well as the usual £1 coin), which the obliging fairy duly did.
We followed Tim’s mission on Facebook, on the news and in the air – spotting the ISS whenever we could on its regular orbits of Earth, being amazed by Tim’s experiments, his marathon in space and the stunning photos he sent back (his book Hello, is this planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station is available to buy, with all proceeds to The Prince’s Trust).
Tim’s incredible shot of Patagonia’s southern ice fields; makes me think of Irish coffee!
Re-supply launch, Florida
In March this year we visited Florida for some Wild Mummy manatee and dolphin spotting, to see Harry Potter World at Universal Studios (for Caroline) and to go on every thrill ride possible (for Wild Daddy.) Our visit coincided with a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral on a re-supply mission to the ISS but sadly it was re-scheduled to a later date.
Meeting James F Reilly II, Kennedy Space Centre
We spent an unforgettable day at Kennedy Space Centre where we met the American astronaut James F. Reilly II who, during his NASA career, flew an incredible 15 million miles in space on board the Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis and on the ISS.
He gave a fascinating lecture about his time in space. My favourite anecdote involved astronauts re-adjusting to gravity after their missions: – a ‘colleague'(?!) of James F Reilly II was drinking beer at home not long after returning to Earth when he was called into another room. He put his beer to one side – in mid-air as he would have done in space – with the imaginable spectacular results!!
Rocket Science Experiment
Back in the UK we were surprised to learn that Caroline had been accepted to take part in the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)’s Rocket Science Experiment, open to 10,000 UK schools, youth groups and, it turned out, home educators.
In September 2015, 2kg of Rocket seeds were flown on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan to the ISS to be stored on board for 6 months in microgravity. On return to earth 100 seeds were sent to each participating education group along with 100 seeds that had remained on Earth.
One batch was in a red packet, one in blue which nobody, except Tim Peake and the RHS, knew was which – a nationwide blind trial to establish if being in microgravity or increased radiation affects germination or growth.
Blue seeds in space
Caroline and her friend guessed that the blue seeds had been in space (because they felt ‘lighter’?) which turned out to be the correct colour when the video showing Tim flipping a coin to decide was released at the end of the experiment!
Planting, nurturing and recording
We carefully planted and labelled the seeds, turning them daily to ensure even sunlight and gently watered them every other day.
Various measurements and records were taken at specific points during the experiment. The results were sent to the RHS for collating and were published only last week.
Caroline also obtained a Blue Peter badge by writing a letter to the presenters detailing the experiment.
Rocket Science experiment basic conclusions
Generally the earth seeds performed better but the space seeds definitely grew, proving the possibility of growing plants and food in space. Mars here we come!
Principia Space Conference, York University
As Rocket Science participants we applied to attend one of the UK Space Agency’s Principia Space Conferences to present our work. We were not hopeful of being accepted so were thrilled to be invited to attend at York University on November 05th 2016.
‘Our Space Year’ poster
We created a display poster, with friends who helped with the experiment, presenting both our experimental work and the year’s space activities.
The conference was a unique experience for all involved, particularly from our home education perspective. It was interesting and affirming to mix with mainstream educators, and inspiring to see hundreds of young people with such energy and enthusiasm for space, science and creativity.
All the schools and groups gave either a presentation or produced a display poster. There were exhibition stands from various space, science and education agencies and age-specific scientific demonstrations.
The UK Space Agency did a truly superb job putting on such an informative and fun educational experience for children of all ages, providing all of them with a literal and metaphorical backpack of space goodies and educational resources.
Meeting Major Tim Peake!
The highlight of the day was, naturally, meeting the UK’s much-loved astronaut, Tim Peake. He’d stated that he wanted to speak to every child in attendance at the conference and that is exactly what he did – around 400 adoring youngsters – despite having to travel back to Houston at the end of the day! What a brilliant, inspirational and approachable role model for the next generation.
Tim gave a fascinating and entertaining talk about his life as an astronaut, his time on the ISS including the toilet facilities photo which the children loved, and the Principia Mission itself. Pronounced ‘Prin-kippy-err’, the name was selected by Tim in honour of Isaac Newton’s physics text on the principal laws of motion and gravity on which all space travel depends, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”. A particular highlight was the description of the journey back to earth and how critical the functioning of the Soyuz capsule is after 6-months inertia in space.
I can’t describe how moved I am by everything involved in space travel and the incredible risks taken to make it happen as well as the astounding maths that make it all possible and the people involved at every level – true kids of the wild!
So! It’s been quite a space year for us and we’ve enjoyed every moment.
We LOVE Tim Peake
A massive thank you to Major Tim Peake, a boy from Chichester, for being a huge inspiration, ambassador and role model to Kids of the Wild and people across the UK and planet Earth.
You have made the Great Wild Wilderness that we love to explore even wider and, it feels, that bit more accessible.
We love you Tim!