Samples sent into Martian conditions have now been returned to budding scientists at Dixie as part of a pioneering space experiment.

Members of the Dixie Grammar School Astronaut Training Club managed to secure a place on the MARSBalloon 2021 mission.

The MARSBalloon project is supported by Thales UK and run by enthusiastic STEM supporters from Thales Alenia Space and will test student ideas for technologies that could one day be destined for Mars. The aim is to test anything that humans or robots will be doing on Mars in the future.

Our students were asked to select materials which could fit into a Kinder Egg capsule. These were then placed aboard a scientific balloon and sent into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Conditions there are similar to those found on the surface of the planet Mars.

Our astronaut trainees selected rocket seeds, special magnets and alloy springs to go in their three capsules. These capsules have now returned to school and our trainees will investigate if Martian conditions have affected the growth of the rocket seeds, the strength of the magnets and the elastic properties of the springs.

The pictures of the students’ experiments from space have been shown to the whole school in assembly and the results of the students’ experiments are eagerly awaited.

Dr Stephen Ketchion, Head of Science and organiser of the Astronaut Training Club, commented: “We are keen to offer our students access to a wide range of experiences through our lunchtime clubs and societies and this innovative mission has offered a remarkable opportunity for our astronaut club members to do some practical work that could contribute to real Martian research. It’s out of this world!”