Science

Search on to find homes for Isaac Newton's space seed saplings

Pips launched into space with Tim Peake have now become young trees that need somewhere to grow.

New homes are being sought for eight apple tree saplings grown from seeds blasted into space with British astronaut Tim Peake.

Each one has an historic pedigree, having been cultivated from pips taken from the tree that, according to legend, inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s work on gravity.

The pips were taken aboard the International Space Station as part of Major Peake’s Principia mission, where they spent six months floating in microgravity.

Tim Peake reading Sir Isaac Newton’s book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica aboard the International Space Station. Credit ESA

Now a competition has been launched to find organisations offering the best chance of growing the trees and using them to promote public interest in science.

Bidding began on September 12 at Newton’s birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham, Lincolnshire.

It was here that the pips were collected from the famous Flower of Kent apple tree.

Science minister Sam Gyimah said: “From gravity to Granny Smiths, Sir Isaac Newton has captured our imagination for more than 300 years.

“Inspiring the next generation of scientists is at the core of our modern industrial strategy and now partners across the country have the chance to do just that by getting their green fingers on these special space saplings.”

Media Personality Newton
Sir Isaac Newton (PA)

After returning to Earth the saplings were cared for at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in London.

Jeremy Curtis, head of education and skills at the UK Space Agency, 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.”

The competition has been jointly organised by the UK Space Agency, the National Trust, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and South Kesteven District Council in Lincolnshire.

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