Astronaut Tim Peake has said he is looking forward to the results of experiments overseen by science students in Wigan and counterparts across the country.
Around 600,000 children will embark on the Rocket Science project organised by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the UK Space Agency next week.
This is a really exciting time for the hundreds of thousands of young people across the country who will begin their Rocket Science experimentsMajor Tim Peake
Pupils from St Peter’s High School in Orrell are among those taking part and the British astronaut - who snapped a picture of the North West this weekend - says he hopes this will spark “wonder and curiosity” among the youngsters taking part.
The experiment will see schoolchildren across the country spend 35 days analysing the growth and development of two apparently identical batches of rocket seeds.
But one 2kg batch of seeds has been in space with Major Peake on the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth at 17,000mph, while the other has remained on Earth.
More than 8,500 schools and youth groups are receiving packets with 100 seeds from each batch to grow and compare to see if space travel affects the plants’ development, in what organisers say is one of the biggest mass science experiments in UK schools.
Major Peake said some of those taking part could become the next generation of plant scientists or could even help mankind reach future milestones in space exploration.
The aim of the project, which will see results collated on a national online database for analysis, is to get children to think about plants and whether food can be produced in space to sustain human life, and to encourage them to consider science and horticulture careers.
In a good luck message to pupils taking part, Major Peake said: “This is a really exciting time for the hundreds of thousands of young people across the country who will begin their Rocket Science experiments.
“I’d like to wish everyone taking part the best of luck with their investigations and I look forward to seeing some of the results.
“It’s possible that among those pupils taking part in the project are the young people who will help mankind reach the next big milestones in space exploration for the benefit of people on Earth.”