South West News

Isaac Newton Space Sapling at Eden

One of eight young trees grown from pips from Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree and blasted into space with British ESA astronaut Tim Peake is to be planted at the Eden Project.

In 2015 apple pips from the iconic Newton tree were taken on the Principia mission by Tim Peake to the International Space Station.

The pips then spent six months floating in micro gravity as part of the Pips in Space project before returning to Earth in 2016.

On their return in 2016, the well-travelled pips went to Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex and home to the Millennium Seed Bank, where they spent 90 days at 5°C to simulate the winter cold needed to break dormancy. In May 2017, they were warmed to 15°C and the young seedlings started to emerge.


The UK Space Agency, the National Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, worked together on the project.


The Eden Project was selected to share the story of space travel, Isaac Newton, horticulture and the excitement of science due to its passion for education and its engaging way of connecting visitors with the living world.

Eden’s Science Team Manager Dr Rachel Warmington said: “Eden is honoured to receive this historic tree. We are all about connecting plants and people in our global garden. I’m sure visitors will be fascinated to learn about the connection between Newton’s apple tree and a journey into space with Tim Peake when they see this tree growing in the landscape.”

Dr Warmington received the new tree from Tim Peake at a special ceremony at Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton’s home and the site of the famous apple tree. It was attended by Andrea Leadsom, Business Secretary, and senior representatives from the Pips in Space 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.


“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.


“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.”


Andrea Leadsom 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.”


Ian Cooper, General Manager for the National Trust, said: “Isaac Newton’s time back home at Woolsthorpe in his Year of Wonders in 1665/66 transformed scientific thinking, the impact of which is still felt today. As the trees grow and mature at their new homes, the partnerships we’ve formed in this project will enable us to share Newton’s fascinating story with new people, hopefully inspiring curiosity and a passion for scientific endeavour.”


Dr Anne Visscher, Career Development Fellow, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: “We are delighted to have been part of such an exciting project. Apple seeds can lose viability if not stored properly, so we made sure they were kept at low humidity during their time in space.


“After their return to Earth, we germinated them in our seed bank laboratories before handing them over to the nursery team, who have gone out of their way to keep the young trees healthy. We are hopeful that they will continue to mature in their new homes around the country whilst engaging visitors with their history of Newton, space travel and plant science.”


For more information on Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree, visit the National Trust website