The Astro Pi project will see two Raspberry Pis – each no bigger than a credit card – flown out to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.
Dave Honess, a former student of Ludgvan and St Ives schools, is Raspberry Pi’s educational resource engineer, and has been heavily involved in creating the Astro Pi project and liaising with British astronaut Tim Peake.
Tim is the first Briton to be selected as an astronaut by the European Space Agency and will start his six-month mission in space in November.
Once on board the ISS, among his other duties he will deploy the Pi computers in different locations and set them running before collecting and downloading the data generated back to Earth where it will be distributed to the schools involved in the project.
Those schools involved with Astro Pi will have earned the right to conduct their space experiments by taking part in a competition held earlier in the year: and, says Dave, no constraints are being put on what experiments the schoolchildren can and cannot do.
There is still opportunity for all schools to get involved with Astro Pi!
There will be an on-orbit activity during the mission (probably in January or February) that you can all do at the same time as Tim. After the winning programs have all finished, the Astro Pi will enter a phase of flight data recording. Just like the black box on an aircraft.
This will make the Astro Pi continually record everything from all its sensors and save the data into a file that you can get! If you set your Astro Pi up in the same way (the software will be provided by us) then you can compare Tim’s measurements taken in space with yours taken on the ground.
There is then a lot of educational value in looking at the differences and understanding why they occur. For instance, you could look at the accelerometer data to find out when ISS reboosts occurred; or study the magnetometer data to find out how the Earth’s magnetic field changes as they orbit the Earth. A number of free educational resources will be provided that will help you to leverage the value of this exercise.
The general public can also get involved when the Sense HAT goes on general sale in a few weeks time.
So what exactly is Astro Pi?