Pips in space
Seeds from Isaac Newton’s apple tree, which were blasted into space with British European astronaut Tim Peake, are now young trees and in need of a new home.
The apple pips were taken to the International Space Station (ISS) on the ESA Principia mission where they spent six months floating in microgravity as part of the ‘Pips in Space’ project.
Now the UK Space Agency (UKSA), the National Trust and Kew, who worked together on the project, have teamed up with South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) in Lincolnshire to launch a competition to find partners that share a commitment to inspire future Newtons to host the trees.
The bidding was launched today (12 September) at Newton’s birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, during the media launch of this month’s SKDC-backed Gravity Fields Festival, the only event in the UK combining the discoveries of Newton with interpretations of his legacy.
Organisations can bid for one of the eight unique saplings, explaining how they will give them space to grow, engage new audiences and promote curiosity.
The pips were taken from the iconic Flower of Kent tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Isaac Newton’s family home near Grantham, Lincolnshire, which is cared for by the National Trust.
The tree, which still bears fruit every year was said to have prompted Newton to question why the apple fell, leading to his world-changing work around gravity. His landmark work, called Principia Mathematica, was chosen as the name of Tim Peake’s mission to acknowledge the debt of all space travellers to Newton’s work.
Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education and Skills at the UKSA, said: “We are thrilled that our friends at Kew have managed to nurture these precious young trees to the point where they can begin independent lives.
“Now we need to find good homes for them across the UK to help as many people as possible find out about the intertwined stories of Newton, gravity, physics, space travel and horticulture. Maybe one of the trees will one day inspire the next Newton!”
On their return from space in 2016, the well-travelled pips went to Wakehurst Place, part of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where they spent 90 days sitting on a bed of agar jelly at 5 C to simulate the winter cold needed to trigger germination. Spring arrived for them in May 2017 when they were warmed to 15C and the young seedlings started to emerge. They have now been nurtured into ‘space saplings’.