Astro Pi

In December 2015, British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake blasted off to the International Space Station for Mission Principia. Two weeks earlier, a number of our augmented Raspberry Pi computers, or “Astro Pis”, had also been flown up to the ISS and lay in wait for him.

A close up of the Astro Pi in it's protective casing.

A close up of the Astro Pi in it’s protective casing.

The augmentations to the existing Raspberry Pi include a special sensor board to act as a toolkit for the students to use. This is a standard Raspberry Pi peripheral called the Sense HAT and it can measure the environment inside the station, detect how it’s moving through space, and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field.

Using the board’s sensors, Tim will be running experiments in space that were created and coded by UK school students!

British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake with Astro Pi

British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake holding the Astro Pi.

What would you do with this equipment? Look for cosmic rays? Make a time-lapse of the Earth through a hatch window? Maybe just have Tim play games on it?

This was the premise of the 2015 Astro Pi competition where seven teams won the chance to have their code sent in to space. Their experiments are in the form of Python programs written and tested by the students, using their own Sense HATs and Raspberry Pis. The winning programs, now part of the Astro Pi payload, blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida back in December and arrived at the ISS a few days before Tim. They range from fun, reaction time games to real science experiments looking at space radiation.

During his mission, Tim Peake will deploy the Astro Pis inside the European Columbus module and run each of the student programs in sequence. The results will then be downloaded back to Earth, returned to the students that took part and made available online for everyone to see.

To read more about this exciting project, visit our Astro Pi webpage.