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One of Newton's Space Saplings lands at NPL

Trees grown from seeds that went into space planted to celebrate science

NPL is proud to be the recipient of one of eight young trees from the pips from Isaac Newton’s apple tree that were blasted into space with British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake.

The eight young trees were grown from seeds taken from the ‘Flower of Kent’ tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, National Trust, in Lincolnshire, the home of iconic scientist Sir Isaac Newton who drew out the principles of gravity after seeing an apple fall.

Tim Peake took the seeds with him when he went to the International Space Station on the British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut’s Principia mission in 2015. “My mission to space was named Principia in homage to Newton’s defining work that included his world-changing ideas about gravity. I wanted my Principia mission to inspire others, particularly young people, with the adventure of space and the excitement of science.”

The seeds spent six months floating in microgravity as part of the ‘Pips in Space’ project and then landed back on Earth in 2016 to be nurtured into young trees. The UK Space Agency, the National Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, worked together on the project.

Speaking at the event, Tim Peake said: “These trees are truly unique. They come from the iconic apple tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton to ponder the forces of gravitation and continues to inspire to this day. Now, thanks to the careful nurturing at Kew, the apple pips that flew with me into space have grown into fine young trees which I hope will continue to inspire potential Isaac Newtons.”

The National Physical Laboratory, The Eden Project, in Cornwall, and Jodrell Bank, in Cheshire are among the winners of a competition to become home to one of the special saplings. The winners represent a mix of fields including educational, research, science, arboreal and horticultural organisations.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, said: “Tim Peake’s first trip to space became a source of national pride and inspired people across the country, including millions of school children, who were amazed at the wonders of space science and achievements. This mission also contributed to the continued success of our space industry which is a vibrant and successful part of our economy. It is my own personal ambition to ensure the sector has a bright future, with investments that lead to huge improvements in our everyday lives - from tackling climate change to communicating around the world.”

Dr Pete Thompson FReng, CEO of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), said: “NPL is delighted to be working in partnership with our friends and neighbours, Bushy Park and the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks to share the heritage and story of this unique tree. We look forward to working together to continue our work to engage future generations with science and nature.”

Bill Swan, Assistant Park Manager for Bushy Park said: “It is of immense pride to be chosen to look after and care for one of the eight space saplings. Trees are important in their own right because of their benefits to the environment but this particular one is special because it provides both a gateway to the past and to the future. Isaac Newton himself said that ‘if I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants,’ and we wish to inspire the next generation by giving them access to a range of experts such as scientists, engineers and horticulturalists, and providing educational opportunities.”

Colin Muid, Chair of the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks said: “The Friends are proud to have helped Bushy Park be selected to be custodian of one of the Space Saplings. Our joint project with NPL which we call Fruits of Genius, will be a wonderful addition to the historic rural space of Bushy Park, which we love and help conserve.”

The successful applications for the space saplings had to demonstrate a commitment to inspiring people through sharing stories of science, space exploration, physics, horticulture and conservation.

In November 2019, the UK Space Agency  announced it will invest £374 million per year with the European Space Agency (ESA) to deliver international space programmes over the next 5 years. Following this investment from the UK and other member states.

13 Jan 2020