A SCIENCE experiment by a talented team of schoolkids is set to blast off into outer space.

Pupils from schools in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire were among 200 youngsters who took part in the Mission Discovery programme, delivered by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) in partnership with the International Space School Education Trust.

They enjoyed an out-of-this-world opportunity as they embarked on a three-day programme of science experiments in the hope that their project would be selected to be sent into space.

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And the winning group was Interstellar Intellectuals, who explored whether artificially increasing root pressure would improve plant growth on the International Space Station – something which is compromised in microgravity. Their experiment, which has the potential to make a significant impact on future crop production in space, will now be tested out by NASA astronauts as they orbit Earth.

Flying the flag for Renfrewshire as members of the Interstellar Intellectuals were Sophie Hughes, of Castlehead High, and Mollie Quinne, of Paisley Grammar, while East Renfrewshire was represented by Jamie Macpherson, of Woodfarm High, and Maryam Khan, of Eastwood High. Making up the rest of the six-strong team were Sam Clark, of Port Glasgow High, and Nairne Gillespie, of Clydeview Academy, Inverclyde.

The judges were impressed by the original nature of the experiment, the in-depth research the team carried out and the potential benefits it has for life in space.

As well as working on their experiments, the pupils have been learning more about what life is like in outer space from former NASA astronaut Dr Michael Foale, who has flown into space on six missions and was Commander of the International Space Station.

The aim of the interactive Mission Discovery programme is to teach young people about science in an engaging way.

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Dr Foale said: “I have been so very impressed by the attitudes and ingenuity of the school pupils here.”

Professor Craig Mahoney, UWS principal and vice-chancellor, added: “I would like to congratulate all the pupils and students who took part in the Mission Discovery space school at our Paisley campus.

“A special well done must also go to the winning team, Interstellar Intellectuals.”

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