Tag Archives: Mission Zero

Young people receive their data from space and Astro Pi certificates

Post Syndicated from Fergus Kirkpatrick original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/young-people-receive-their-data-from-space-and-astro-pi-certificates/

Across Europe and beyond, teams of young people are receiving data from the International Space Station (ISS) this week. That’s because they participated in the annual European Astro Pi Challenge, the unique programme we deliver in collaboration with ESA Education to give kids the chance to write code that runs in space.

The Astro Pi computers inside the International Space Station.
The Astro Pi computers inside the International Space Station.

In this round of Astro Pi, over 26,400 young people took part across its two missions — Mission Space Lab and Mission Zero — and had their programs run on the Raspberry Pi computers on board the ISS.

Mission Space Lab teams find out the speed of the ISS

In Mission Space Lab, we asked young people to team up and write code to collect data on the ISS and calculate the speed at which the ISS is travelling. 236 teams wrote programs that passed all our tests and achieved flight status to run in space. And not only will the Mission Space Lab teams receive their participation certificates this week — they’ll also receive the data their programs captured on the ISS.

A picture of the Himalayas taken from space by the Astro Pi computers.
A picture of the Himalayas taken from space by the Astro Pi computers.

Many teams chose a feature extraction method to calculate the ISS’s speed, identifying two points on Earth from which to calculate the distance the ISS travelled over time. Using this method means using the high-quality camera on the Astro Pi computer to take some fantastic photos of Earth from the ISS’s World Observation Research Facility (WORF) window. Teams will receive these photos soon, which are unique views of Earth from space.

A picture of feature extraction between two images.
Feature extraction between two images

How fast does the ISS travel? 

The actual speed that the ISS is travelling in space while at normal altitude is 7.66km/s. Its altitude can affect the speed, so it can vary, but the ISS’s boosters fire up if it dips too low.

To help teams with writing programs that can adapt to some of these variances, and to show them the type data they can collect, we gave them a programming tool we call Astro Pi Replay. Using this tool, teams can simulate how their program would run on the Astro Pi computers up in space.

The International Space Station orbiting Earth.
The International Space Station orbiting Earth

This is the first time we asked Mission Space Lab teams to focus on a particular scientific question. So how did they do? The graph below shows some of the speeds that teams’ programs estimated. 

A graph showing the range of speeds calculated by Mission Space Lab teams.
The range of speeds calculated by Mission Space Lab teams

As you can see, a variety of speeds were estimated, but the average is fairly close to the ISS’s actual speed. Teams did a great job trying to solve the question and working like real space scientists. Once they receive their data this week, they can check how accurate their speed estimate was.

Mission Zero pixel art lights up astronauts’ daily tasks 

In Astro Pi Mission Zero, a coding activity suitable for beginners, 16,039 teams of young people created code to make pixel art inspired by nature. Nearly half (44%) of the 24,409 participants were girls! 15,942 of the Mission Zero teams had their code run on the ISS after we checked that it followed the rules.

Mission Zero Submissions

Every team whose program ran on the ISS — with their pixel art showing for the astronauts to see as they worked — will receive certificates with the time, date, and location coordinates of their Mission Zero run. 

We’ve been so impressed with this year’s pixel art creations that we’ve picked some as new examples for next year’s Mission Zero coding guide. That means young people will be able to choose one of a few pixel images to start with and recreate or remix them for their program. More info on that is coming soon, sign up to the Astro Pi newsletter to not miss it.

Let’s get ready for September

Thank you and congratulations to everyone who took part in the missions this year, and our special thanks to all the amazing educators who ran Astro Pi activities with young people.

The boot shape of Italy photographed from space by the Astro Pi computers.
The south of Italy photographed from space by the Astro Pi computers

For us, there is much to reflect on and celebrate from this year’s challenge. We’ve had the chance to run Mission Zero with young people in person and identify a few changes to help make the activity easier. As Mission Space Lab now involves simulating programs running on the ISS with our new Astro Pi Replay tool, we’ll be exploring how to improve this as well.

We hope to engage lots of previous and new participants in the Astro Pi Challenge when it starts up again in September. Sign up for the newsletter on astro-pi.org to be the first to hear about the new round.

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Young people’s Astro Pi code is sent to the International Space Station

Post Syndicated from Fergus Kirkpatrick original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/young-peoples-astro-pi-code-is-sent-to-the-international-space-station/

Young people taking part in the European Astro Pi Challenge are about to have their computer programs sent to the International Space Station (ISS). Astro Pi is run annually in collaboration by us and ESA Education, and offers two ways to get involved: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

This year, over 25,000 young people from across Europe and eligible ESA Member States are getting their programs ‘uplinked’ to the Astro Pi computers aboard the ISS, where they will be running over the next few weeks. 

Mission Zero teams send their art into space

Mission Zero is an exciting activity for kids with little or no experience with coding. We invite young people to create a Python program that displays an 8×8 pixel image or animation. This program then gets sent to the ISS, and each pixel art piece is displayed for 30 seconds on the LED matrix display of the Astro Pi computers on the ISS.

Two Astro Pis on board the International Space Station.
Astro Pis on the ISS

We picked the theme ‘fauna and flora’ as the inspiration for young people’s pixel art, as it proved so popular last year, and we weren’t disappointed: this year, 24,378 young people submitted 16,039 Mission Zero creations!  

We’ve tested every program and are pleased to announce that 15,942 Mission Zero programs will be sent to run on the ISS from mid May. 

Once again, we have been amazed at the wonderful images and animations that young people have created. Seeing all the images that have been submitted is one of the most enjoyable and inspiring things to do as we work on the Astro Pi Challenge. Here is a little selection of some of our favourites submitted this year:

A selection of pixel art images and animation inspired by nature submitted by young people.
A selection of Mission Zero submissions

Varied approaches: How different teams calculate ISS speed

For Mission Space Lab, we invite more experienced young coders to take on a scientific challenge: to calculate the speed that the ISS orbits Earth. 

Teams are tasked with writing a program that uses the Astro Pis’ sensors and visible light camera to capture data for their calculations, and we have really enjoyed seeing the different approaches the teams have taken. 

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.

Some teams decided to calculate the distance between two points in photos of the Earth’s surface and combine this with how long it took for the ISS to pass over the points to find the speed. This particular method uses feature extraction and needs to account for ground sampling distance — how many square metres are represented in one pixel in an image of the ground taken from above — to get an accurate output.  

We’ve also seen teams use data from the gyroscope to calculate the speed using the angle readings and photos to get their outputs. Yet other teams have derived the speed using equations of motion and sampling from the accelerometer.

An example of features of the earth’s surface being matched across two different images.
Feature extraction example taken from images captured by the Astro Pis

All teams that took multiple samples from the Astro Pi sensors, or multiple images, had to decide how to output a final estimate for the speed of the ISS. Most teams opted to use the mean average. But a few teams chose to filter their samples to choose only the ‘best’ ones based on prior knowledge (Bayesian filtering), and some used a machine learning model and the Astro Pi’s machine learning dongle to select which images or data samples to use. Some teams even provided a certainty score along with their final estimate.

236 Mission Space Lab teams awarded flight status

However the team choses to approach the challenge, before their program can run on the ISS, we need to make sure of a few things. For a start, we check that they’ve followed the challenge rules and meet the ISS security requirements. Next, we check that the program can run without errors on the Astro Pis as the astronauts on board the ISS can’t stop what they’re doing to fix any problems. 

So, all programs submitted to us must pass a rigorous testing process before they can be sent into space. We run each program on several replica Astro Pis, then run all the programs sequentially, to ensure there’s no problems. If the program passes testing, it’s awarded ‘flight status’ and can be sent to run in space.

The Astro Pi computers inside the International Space Station.

This year, 236 teams have been awarded flight status. These teams represent 889 young people from 22 countries in Europe and ESA member states. The average age of these young people is 15, and 27% of them are girls. The UK has the most teams achieving flight status (61), followed by the Czech Republic (23) and Romania (22). You can see how this compares to last year and explore other breakdowns of participant data in the annual Astro Pi impact report.  

Our congratulations to all the Mission Space Lab teams who’ve been awarded flight status: it is a great achievement. All these teams will be invited to join a live online Q&A with an ESA astronaut in June. We can’t wait to see what questions you send us for the astronaut.

A pause to recharge the ISS batteries 

Normally, the Astro Pi programs run continuously from the end of April until the end of May. However, this year, there is an interesting event happening in the skies above us that means that programs will pause for a few days. The ISS will be moving its position on the ‘beta angle’ and pivoting its orientation to maximise the sunlight that it can capture with its solar panels. 

A picture of the International Space Station.
The International Space Station

The ISS normally takes 90 minutes to complete its orbit, 45 minutes of which is in sunlight, and 45 minutes in darkness. When it moves along the beta angle, it will be in continual sunlight, allowing it to capture lots of solar energy and recharge its batteries. While in its new orientation, the ISS is exposed to increased heat from the sun so the window shutters must be closed to help the astronauts stay cool. That means taking photos of the Earth’s surface won’t be possible for a few days.

What next?

Once all of the programs have run, we will send the Mission Space Lab teams the data collected during their experiments. All successful Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab teams and mentors will also receive personal certificates to recognise their mission completion.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Astro Pi Challenge participants, and especially to all successful teams.

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Launch kids’ code into space with the European Astro Pi Challenge 2023/24

Post Syndicated from Fergus Kirkpatrick original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/european-astro-pi-challenge-mission-zero-2023-24/

Throughout this year, space agencies have been embarking on new missions to explore our solar system, and young people can get involved too through the European Astro Pi Challenge 2023/24, which we’re launching today.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

Kids’ code in space with the Astro Pi Challenge

In the past few months India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission landed near the Moon’s south pole, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe flew by Venus on its way to the sun, and the SpaceX Crew-7 launched to the International Space Station (ISS), led by ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen. We’re especially excited about Andreas’ mission because he’s the astronaut who will help to run young people’s Astro Pi programs on board the ISS this year.

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen on board the ISS.
ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will help run kids’ Astro Pi code on board the ISS. Can you spot an Astro Pi computer in the photo?

As you may know, the European Astro Pi Challenge gives young people the amazing opportunity to conduct scientific experiments in space by writing computer programs for the Astro Pis, special Raspberry Pi computers on board the ISS.

Two Astro Pis on board the International Space Station.
Two Astro Pis on board the International Space Station.

The Astro Pi Challenge is free and offers two missions for young people: Mission Zero is an inspiring activity for introducing kids to text-based programming with Python. Mission Space Lab gives teams of young people the chance to take on a more challenging programming task and stretch their coding and science skills.

A young person with her coding project at a laptop.

Participation in Astro Pi is open to young people up to age 19 in ESA Member States (see the Astro Pi website for eligibility details).

Astro Pi Mission Zero opens today

In Astro Pi Mission Zero, young people write a simple Python program to take a reading using a sensor on one of the ISS Astro Pi computers and display a personalised pixel art image for the astronauts on board the ISS. They can take part by themselves or as coding teams.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

The theme for Mission Zero 2023/24 is ‘fauna and flora’: young people are invited to program pixel art images or animations of animals, plants, or fungi to display on the Astro Pi computers’ LED pixel screen and remind the astronauts aboard the ISS of Earth’s natural wonders.

A collection of 8 by 8 pixel images of animals.
A selection of Mission Zero pixel art images of animals.

By following the guide we provide, kids can complete the Mission Zero coding activity in around one hour, for example during a school lesson or coding club session. No coding experience is needed to take part. Kids can write their code in any web browser on any computer connected to the internet, without special equipment or software.

A map of Earth.
Mission Zero participants get a certificate showing the exact time and place where their code was run in space.

All young people that meet the eligibility criteria and follow the official Mission Zero guidelines will have their program run in space for up to 30 seconds. They will receive a unique and personalised certificate to show their coding achievement. The certificate will display the exact start and end time of their program’s run, and where the ISS was above Earth in this time period.

Mission Zero 2023/24 opens today and is open until Monday 25 March 2024. It’s very easy to support young people to get involved — find out more on the Astro Pi website:

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab will open soon

In this year’s Astro Pi Mission Space Lab, ESA astronauts are inviting teams of young people to solve a scientific task by writing a Python program.

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab logo.

The Mission Space Lab task is to gather data with the Astro Pi computers to calculate the speed at which the ISS is travelling. This new format of the mission will allow many more young people to run their programs in space and get a taste of space science.

The Strait of Gibraltar photographed by an Astro Pi on board the ISS.
The Strait of Gibraltar photographed by an Astro Pi on board the ISS during a previous Mission Space Lab.

Mission Space Lab will open on 6 November. We will share more information about how young people and mentors can participate very soon.

Sign up for Astro Pi news

The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with us here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

You can keep up with all Astro Pi news by following the Astro Pi X account (formerly Twitter) or signing up to the newsletter at astro-pi.org.

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Welcome home! An original Astro Pi computer back from space is now on display at the Science Museum

Post Syndicated from Claire Given original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/astro-pi-computer-back-from-space-is-now-on-display-at-the-science-museum/

After seven successful years on the International Space Station, 250 vertical miles above our planet, the original two Astro Pi computers that we sent to the ISS to help young people run their code in space have been returned to Earth. From today, one of these Astro Pi computers will be displayed in the Science Museum, London. You can visit it in the new Engineers Gallery, which is dedicated to world-changing engineering innovations and the diverse and fascinating range of people behind them.

Astro Pi Izzy at the Science Museum in London.

A challenge to inspire young people about space and computing

The original Astro Pis, nicknamed Izzy and Ed, have played a major part in feeding tens of thousands of young people’s understanding and passion for science, mathematics, engineering, computing, and coding. In their seven years on the International Space Station (ISS), Izzy and Ed had the job of running over 70,000 programs created by young people as part of the annual Astro Pi Challenge.

Nicki Ashworth, 21, took part in the first-ever Astro Pi challenge after hearing about the opportunity at a science fair: “I thought it sounded like an interesting project, and good practice for my programming skills. I was young and had no idea of the extent of the project and how much it would influence my future.” 

Like many young people who have participated in the Astro Pi Challenge, Nicki credits the Astro Pi Challenge as an inspiration to learn more about space and programming, and to decide on a career path: “My experience with Astro Pi definitely helped to shape my future choices. I’m currently in my third year of a Mechanical Engineering degree at University of Southampton, specialising in Computational Engineering and Design. I’ve always loved programming, which is why I took part in the Astro Pi competition, but it led to a fascination with space. This encouraged me to look at engineering as a future, and led me to where I am today!”

Matthias catching Astro Pis in microgravity.

In the beginning…

It all started in 2014, when we started collaborating with organisations including the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA) to fly two Astro Pi computers to the ISS for educational activities during the six-month Principia mission of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake.

The Astro Pi computers each consist of a Raspberry Pi computer integrated with a digital camera and an add-on board filled with environmental sensors, all enclosed in a protective aluminium flight case.

Commander Tim Peake, Britain’s first visitor to the ISS, accompanied the two first Astro Pi computers on the ISS. He used them to run experiments imagined, designed, and coded by school-age young people across the UK. 

We held a competition in UK schools and coding clubs to invite young people to create experiments that could be run on the Astro Pis. Students conceived experiments and coded them in Python; we tested their Python programs and eventually picked seven to run on Izzy and Ed on the ISS.

The students’ experiments ranged from a simple but beautiful program to display the flag of the country over which the ISS was flying at a given time, to a reaction-time test for Tim Peake to measure his changing abilities across the six-month mission. The measurements from all the experiments were downloaded to Earth and analysed by the students.

“I still feel incredibly honoured to have competed in the very first [Astro Pi Challenge],” says Aaron Chamberlain, 18, who was 11 years old when he took part in the first-ever Astro Pi Challenge in 2015. “The experience was incredible and really cemented my enthusiasm for all things computing and coding. Finally looking at the photos the Raspberry Pi had taken of the astronauts floating 400 km above us was a feeling of awe that I will never forget.”

The next year, 2016, we expanded our partnership with ESA Education to be able to open up Astro Pi to young people across ESA Member states. The European Astro Pi Challenge has been going from strength to strength each year since, inspiring young people and adult mentors alike.

A young person holds up her Astro Pi Mission Zero certificate.

And today…

In 2021 we decided it was time to retire Izzy and Ed and replace them with upgraded Astro Pi computers with plenty of new and improved hardware, including a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with 8 GB RAM. 

Dave Honess, STEM Didactics Expert at the European Space Agency, was engineering lead at the Foundation for the first Astro Pi Challenge, and the return of the original hardware is a special event and moment of reflection for him: “It was a strange experience to open the box and hold the original Astro Pis again after all that time and distance they have travelled — literally billions of miles. Even though their mission is over, we will continue to learn from them with a tear-down analysis to find out if they have been affected by their time in space. Since Principia, I have watched the European Astro Pi Challenge grow with pride year on year, but I still feel very fortunate to have been there at the beginning.”

Thanks to the upgraded hardware, we are able to continue to grow the Astro Pi Challenge in collaboration with ESA Education. And each year it’s so exciting to see the creative and ingenious programs tens of thousands of young people from across Europe send us; 24,850 young people took part in the Challenge in the 2022/2023 cycle.

But how have Astro Pis Izzy and Ed fared in space over these seven years? Jonathan Bell, Principal Software Engineer at Raspberry Pi Limited, had a chance to find out first-hand: “I was lucky enough to have a look inside the returned Astro Pis. I was looking for the cosmetic effects of the unit being on the ISS for so long. On the inside they still look as pristine as when I assembled them! Barely a speck of dust on the internal boards, nor any signs that the external interface ports were worn from their years of use. A few dings and scrapes on the anodised exterior were all that I could see — and a missing joystick cap (as it turns out, hot-melt glue isn’t a permanent adhesive…). It was great to see that they still worked! It made me feel proud for what the team and the Astro Pi programme has achieved over the years. It’s good to have Izzy and Ed back!”

Astro Pi MK II hardware.

Visit the Science Museum to see an Astro Pi for yourself

The new Engineers Gallery in the Science Museum opens today and is free to visit. Astro Pi computer Izzy is among the amazing exhibits. Learn more at: sciencemuseum.org.uk/engineers  

To find out more about the Astro Pi Challenge and how to get involved with your kids at home, your school, or your STEM or coding club, visit astro-pi.org. 

The next round of the Challenge starts in September — sign up for news to be the first to hear when we launch it.

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Young people designed 15,000 images for astronauts in Astro Pi Mission Zero 2022/23

Post Syndicated from Fergus Kirkpatrick original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/15000-young-people-astro-pi-mission-zero-2022-23/

In the Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS), there are two Astro Pi computers called Marie Curie and Nikola Tesla. These computers run the programs young people create as part of the annual European Astro Pi Challenge.

A young person takes part in Astro Pi Mission Zero.

For this year’s Astro Pi Mission Zero, young people sent us over 15,000 programs to show the ISS astronauts colourful images and animations of animals and plants on the Astro Pi displays and remind them of home.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

A space mission inspired by nature

Mission Zero is a free beginners’ coding activity. It gives young people the unique opportunity to follow our step-by-step guide to write a simple program in Python that can run in space on the ISS orbiting planet Earth.

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.
The Astro Pi computers on board the ISS

The Mission Zero activity this year was to write code to use the Astro Pi’s colour sensor to measure the lighting conditions in the Columbus module, and to then use that measurement to set a colour in an image or animation on the Astro Pi’s 8×8 LED display. We invited young people to design images of fauna and flora to give the astronauts on board the ISS a reminder of the beautiful creatures, plantlife, and landscapes found on planet Earth.

A selection of pixel images of animals and plants, which young people coded for Astro Pi Mission Zero.

The Mission Zero activity is ideal for learners trying text-based programming for the first time. It covers some key programming concepts, including variables, sequence, and iteration.

Tens of thousands of young people had their programs run in space

This year we received 15,551 Mission Zero programs, and after carefully checking them against the entry and safety criteria, we were able to run 15,475 programs. They were sent to us by 23,605 learners working in teams or independently, and 10,207 of this year’s participants were girls.

A young person with her coding project at a laptop.

This year the most Mission Zero programs came from young people in the UK, followed by Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. Lots of different organisations supported young people to take part, including publicly funded primary and secondary schools, as well as educator- and volunteer-led Code Clubs and CoderDojos we support. 

We’re celebrating the many different people involved in this year’s mission with a mosaic of the Mission Zero logo made up of lots of the inspiring designs participants sent us. You can explore an interactive version of the image too!

A mosaic of thousands of designs creating a large version of the Mission Zero logo.
A mosaic of Mission Zero designs

All of the participants whose programs ran on the ISS will be receiving a certificate to recognise their efforts, which will include the time and coordinates of the ISS when their program ran. Programs created by young people from across Europe ran on board the ISS in the final week of May. 

Sign up to the Astro Pi newsletter

If you enjoyed Astro Pi Mission Zero this year, we would be delighted to see you again in the next annual round. If you’re feeling inspired by the images young people have created, we invite you to get involved too. We provide guides and help for all adult mentors who want to support young people to take part, and the step-by-step guide for coding a Mission Zero program in 19 European languages.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

The activity of designing an image has been really popular, and we have been super impressed with the creativity of young people’s designs. That’s why we’ll be running Mission Zero in the same format again starting in September.

If you’d like to hear news of the Astro Pi Challenge, please sign up to the newsletter on astro-pi.org

We are always interested to hear your feedback about Mission Zero, as a mentor or participant. If you would like to share your thoughts with us, please email [email protected]

PS Look out for some cool news about the Astro Pi computers, which we’ll announce soon on this blog!

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24850 young people’s programs ran in space for Astro Pi 2022/23

Post Syndicated from Fergus Kirkpatrick original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/young-peoples-computer-programs-space-iss-astro-pi-22-23/

Over 15,000 teams of young people from across Europe had their computer programs run on board the International Space Station (ISS) this month as part of this year’s European Astro Pi Challenge.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

Astro Pi is run in collaboration by us and ESA Education, and offers two ways to get involved: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Mission Zero: Images of Earth’s fauna and flora in space 

Mission Zero is the Astro Pi beginners’ activity. To take part, young people spend an hour writing a short Python program for the Astro Pi computers on the International Space Station (ISS). This year we invited them to create an 8×8 pixel image or animation on the theme of fauna and flora, which their program showed on an Astro Pi LED matrix display for 30 seconds.

This year, 23,605 young people’s Mission Zero programs ran on the ISS. We need to check all the programs before we can send them to space and that means we got to see all the images and animations that the young people created. Their creativity was absolutely incredible! Here are some inspiring examples:

Pixel images from Mission Zero participants.

Mission Space Lab: Young people’s experiments on the ISS

Mission Space Lab runs over eight months and empowers teams of young people to design real science experiments on the ISS, executed by Python programs they write themselves. Teams choose between two themes: ‘Life in space’ and ‘Life on Earth’.

This year, the Mission Space Lab programs of 1245 young people in 294 teams from 21 countries passed our rigorous judging and testing process. These programs were awarded flight status and sent to the Astro Pis on board the ISS, where they captured data for the teams to analyse back down on Earth.

Mission Space Lab teams this year decided to design experiments such as analysing cloud formations to identify where storms commonly occur, looking at ocean colour as a measure of depth, and analysing freshwater systems and the surrounding areas they supply water to.

The Earth’s surface from the perspective of the International Space Station.
A selection of images taken by the Astro Pis of the Earth’s surface, including mountains, deserts, Aotearoa New Zealand south island, and lakes

Teams will be receiving their experiment data later this week, and will be analysing and interpreting it over the next few weeks. For example, the team analysing freshwater systems want to investigate how these systems may be affected by climate change. What their Mission Space Lab program has recorded while running on the Astro Pis is a unique data set that the team can compare against other scientific data.

The challenges of running programs in space

For the ‘Life on Earth’ category of Mission Space Lab experiments this year, the Astro Pis were positioned in a different place to previous years: in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF). Therefore the Astro Pis could take photos with a wider view. Combined with the High Quality Camera of the upgraded Astro Pi computers we sent to the ISS in 2021, this means that the teams got amazing-quality photos of the Earth’s surface.

The Astro Pi computers inside the International Space Station.
The two Astro Pis positioned in an observation window on the ISS

Once the experiments for ‘Life on Earth’ were complete, the astronauts moved the Astro Pis back to the Columbus module and replaced their SD cards, ready for capturing the data for the ‘Life in Space’ experiments.

Running programs in an environment as unique as the ISS, where all hardware and software is put to the test, brings many complexities and challenges. Everything that happens on the ISS has to be scheduled well in advance, and astronauts have a strict itinerary to follow to keep the ISS running smoothly.

The earth’s surface from the perspective of the International Space Station, with a large robotic arm in view.
The Canadarm in view on the ISS, photographed by an Astro Pi computer

As usual, this year’s experiments met with their fair share of challenges. One initial challenge the Astro Pis had this year was that the Canadarm, a robotic arm on the outside of the ISS, was in operation during some of the ‘Life on Earth’ experiments. Although it’s fascinating to see part of the ISS in-shot, it also slightly obscured some of the photos.

Another challenge was that window shutters were scheduled to close during some of the experiments, which meant we had to switch around the schedule for Mission Space Lab programs to run so that all of the experiments aiming to capture photos could do so.

What’s next for Astro Pi?

Well done to all the young people who’ve taken part in the European Astro Pi Challenge this year.

  • If you’ve mentored young people in Mission Zero, then we will share their unique participation certificates with you very soon.
  • If you are taking part in Mission Space Lab, then we wish you the best of luck with your analysis and final reports. We are excited to read about your findings.

If you’d like to hear about upcoming Astro Pi Challenges, sign up to the newsletter at astro-pi.org.

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Inspiring young people to code with the Astro Pi Challenge and astronaut Matthias Maurer

Post Syndicated from Claire Given original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/young-people-code-astro-pi-challenge-matthias-maurer-life-on-iss/

The European Astro Pi Challenge offers young people the opportunity to write computer programs that run on Raspberry Pi computers on board the International Space Station (ISS). There are two free, annual missions to participate in: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Sending your computer program to space is amazing already, and to inspire even more young people about this opportunity, we’re sharing some of the fascinating stories European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer told last round’s Mission Space Lab team winners about his experiences on the ISS.

Matthias on the ISS, catching Astro Pis in microgravity.
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer with the Astro Pi computer on board the ISS. Photo credit: ESA/NASA

Last round’s winning Mission Space Lab teams were invited to a very special online session with Matthias, and he shared lots of thoughtful and surprising insights from his mission on the International Space Station. Here are three of the questions from the teams and what Matthias had to say:

1. Working together

Lots of the teams wanted to know about the practicalities of life on the ISS. Team Ad Astra from the UK asked “How did you and your crewmates ensure that you got on well together?” Matthias talked about how supporting each member of the team helps everyone work well together:

2. Talking to family

It was surprising to hear that the astronauts on the ISS have lots of opportunities to communicate with people on Earth. Matthias explained how the astronauts can keep in regular contact with their family while answering the question from Team Atlantes from Spain: 

3. Cutting-edge technology

Team NanoKids asked Matthias about the technologies astronauts use on the ISS, and Matthias shared some fascinating glimpses into what tools help the astronauts in their surroundings:

Thank you to all the teams for these great questions. And thank you to Matthias for offering young people a peek into what life is like in space!

You can still get involved in this round of Astro Pi Mission Zero

We hope Matthias’ stories inspire lots of young people to take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge. Registration for this round of Mission Space Lab is closed, so why not sign up for news about the next round?

But it’s not too late for young people to get involved today and become part of space history. Astro Pi Mission Zero is still open for participation a little while longer — until 17 March.

Mission Zero is a beginner’s coding activity, so it’s really easy to get involved: young people just need a grown-up to register for them, and a computer with a web browser to participate. In Mission Zero, young people up to age 19 in eligible countries have the chance to send their own simple computer program into space to display a colourful image for the astronauts to see on the ISS.

The one-hour Mission Zero activity comes with step-by-step instructions for young people to follow. No special equipment or coding skills are needed, and all eligible young people who follow the guidelines will have their program run in space. Every Mission Zero participants receives a certificate to show the exact time and the location of the ISS during their programs run, so they’ll have something to remember their stellar achievement.


The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with us here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

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Code along with our Astro Pi Mission Zero video

Post Syndicated from Claire Given original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/codealong-astro-pi-mission-zero-2023/

Today we’re sharing an Astro Pi Mission Zero codealong video to help even more young people send their code into space.

In Mission Zero, young people write a simple program and display a colourful image on an Astro Pi computer on board the International Space Station (ISS). When the astronauts on mission on the ISS are working nearby, they can see the images young people have designed.

No coding experience is needed for Mission Zero. It’s a free and inspiring beginners’ coding activity. All young people need is an hour to write the program, a web browser on any computer with internet access, and an adult mentor who can register online to access the Mission Hub (see below).

Get inspired to code with Mission Zero

In the codealong video, Rebecca from our team shows young people how to write their Mission Zero program step by step. We hope that it will open up this amazing coding activity to even more young people. (There’s also the written guide to creating your program, available in 20 languages.)

A young person takes part in Astro Pi Mission Zero.

Young people up to age 19 in ESA Member States are invited to take part, individually or as teams (see the eligibility details).

Every participant will receive a piece of space science history to keep: a personalised certificate they can download, which shows their Mission Zero program’s exact start and end time, and the position of the ISS while their program ran.

A young person holds up her Astro Pi Mission Zero certificate.

The theme to inspire images for Mission Zero this year is ‘flora and fauna’, to remind the ISS astronauts of their home. The images can show anything from flowers and trees to birds, insects, and other animals. Young people could even create a series of images to show as an animation during the 30 seconds their program will run.

Mission Zero 2022/23 is open until 17 March 2023.

For all educators and parents 

If you’re an adult mentor supporting young people to take part, read the mission guidelines to find out all you need to know. You can also watch this short video showing you exactly how to register to access the Mission Hub and get the code to identify your young people’s programs.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

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Astro Pi Mission Zero 2022/23 is open for young people

Post Syndicated from Sam Duffy original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/astro-pi-mission-zero-2022-23-is-open/

Inspire young people about coding and space science with Astro Pi Mission Zero. Mission Zero offers young people the chance to write code that will run in space! It opens for participants today.

A young person takes part in Astro Pi Mission Zero.

What is Mission Zero?

In Mission Zero, young people write a simple computer program to run on an Astro Pi computer on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

Following step-by-step instructions, they write code to take a reading from an Astro Pi sensor and display a colourful image for the ISS astronauts to see as they go about their daily tasks. This is a great, one-hour activity for beginners to programming.

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.
The Astro Pi computers in microgravity on the International Space Station

Participation is free and open for young people up to age 19 in ESA Member States (eligibility details). Everything can be done in a web browser, on any computer with internet access. No special hardware or prior coding skills are needed.

Participants will receive a piece of space science history to keep: a personalised certificate they can download, which shows their Mission Zero program’s exact start and end time, and the position of the ISS when their program ran.

All young people’s entries that meet the eligibility criteria and follow the official Mission Zero guidelines will have their program run in space for up to 30 seconds.

Mission Zero 2022/23 is open until 17 March 2023.

New this year for Mission Zero participants

If you’ve been involved in Mission Zero before, you will notice lots of things have changed. This year’s Mission Zero participants will be the first to use our brand-new online code editor, a tool that makes it super easy to write their program using the Python language.

Astro Pi Mission Zero coding interface.
The new code editor where young people will write their Mission Zero programs using the Python language

Thanks to the new Astro Pi computers that we sent to the ISS in 2021, there’s a brand-new colour and luminosity sensor, which has never been available to Mission Zero programmers before:

Finally, this year we’re challenging coders to create a colourful image to show on the Astro Pi’s LED display, and to use the data from the colour sensor to determine the image’s background colour.

The theme to inspire images for Mission Zero 2022/23 is ‘flora and fauna’. The images participants design can represent any aspect of this theme, such as flowers, trees, animals, or insects. Young people could even choose to program a series of images to show a short animation during the 30 seconds their program will run.

Here are some examples of images created by last year’s Mission Zero participants. What will you create?

Sign up for Astro Pi news

The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with us here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Young people can also take part in Astro Pi Mission Space Lab, where they will work to design a real scientific experiment to run on the Astro Pi computers.

You can keep updated with all of the latest Astro Pi news by following the Astro Pi Twitter account or signing up to the newsletter at astro-pi.org.

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The names of the new Astro Pi computers get revealed

Post Syndicated from Sam Duffy original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/new-astro-pi-computer-names-mission-zero-2021-22/

We and our collaborators at ESA Education are excited to announce that 17,168 programs written by young people from 26 countries have been successfully deployed on board the International Space Station (ISS) for the European Astro Pi Challenge 2021/22. And we can finally reveal the names of the two new and upgraded Astro Pi computers that Astro Pi participants have chosen.

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.
Young people participating in this year’s Astro Pi Mission Zero had the chance to help name these two upgraded Astro Pi computers, which we sent to the ISS in December.

Astro Pi is more popular than ever with young people

A record number of 28,126 young people took part across both missions in the Astro Pi Challenge 2021/22. In addition to the 299 Mission Space Lab teams who achieved flight status with the code they wrote for their scientific experiments this year, young people wrote 16,869 Mission Zero programs that were run on the new Astro Pi computers. This is an amazing 84% increase compared to Mission Zero last year.

Mission Zero is perfect for beginner coders: participants follow our step-by-step instructions and write a simple program for the Astro Pis. The program takes a humidity reading on board the ISS and displays it for the astronauts. Participants can also include code to display their own unique message on the Astro Pi LED displays. Mission Zero teams are very inventive, and the young people made great use of the Astro Pis’ LED display to create pixel art:

Pixel art coded by young people in Astro Pi Mission Zero.
Examples of pixel art images designed by Mission Zero 2021/22 teams for the Astro Pis’ LED displays.

Every Mission Zero participant receives a unique certificate showing exactly where the ISS was on its orbital path when their program was run:

The new Astro Pi computers’ names

This year, the deployment of all the Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab programs was overseen by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. But before he could do that, he first had an extra special task: unpacking and assembling the brand-new Astro Pi units in microgravity.

Matthias catching Astro Pis in microgravity.

The two original Astro Pis, named Ed and Izzy, travelled to the ISS back in 2015 as part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission. Since the, these two special Raspberry Pi computers have run programs written by more than 54,000 young people. They have done an amazing job and will return to Earth later in 20 22.

This year’s European Astro Pi Challenge is the first to use the two all-new Astro Pi computers, which we sent up to the ISS in December 2021. They are packed with special features, widening young people’s possibilities for new Mission Space Lab experiments. Running this year’s 17,168 programs was the new Astro Pis’ first task. 

Two Astro Pi units on board the International Space Station.
The two new Astro Pi computers on board the ISS

All young people taking part in Mission Zero this year had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: they got to suggest and vote for the names of the two new Astro Pi computers. We received nearly 7,000 name suggestions.

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer has recorded a special message for all Astro Pi participants, revealing that the new Astro Pi computers will be named in honour of two inspirational European scientists drum roll… Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie!

The Astro Pi unit equipped with a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera that is sensitive to near-infrared light is now called Nikola, and the Astro Pi unit with a visible-light sensitive High Quality Camera is now called Marie.

Marie Curie was born in Poland in 1867 and the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes, in Physics and Chemistry, for her contribution to pioneering work on radioactivity and the treatment of cancer. Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia in 1856, and his innovations in electrical engineering included alternating current — vital for transmitting electricity over long distances — and the induction motor.

Marie Curie and Nikola Tesla’s work continues to impact all of our lives today, and we are delighted that this year’s Astro Pi participants have democratically chosen their names for the new Astro Pi computers.

Sign up for news about the next Astro Pi Challenge

The European Astro Pi Challenge will be back again in September 2022. Subscribe to the Astro Pi newsletter on the Astro Pi website to be the first to hear when the 2022/23 missions have lift off! 

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3D print you own replica Astro Pi flight case

Post Syndicated from Richard Hayler original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/3d-print-astro-pi-flight-case-mark-ii/

We’ve put together a new how-to guide for 3D printing and assembling your own Astro Pi unit replica, based on the upgraded units we sent to the International Space Station in December.

Astro Pi MK II hardware.
The new, upgraded Astro Pi units.

The Astro Pi case connects young people to the Astro Pi Challenge

It wasn’t long after the first Raspberry Pi computer was launched that people started creating the first cases for it. Over the years, they’ve designed really useful ones, along with some very stylish ones. Without a doubt, the most useful and stylish one has to be the Astro Pi flight case.

Animation of how the components of the Mark 2 Astro Pi hardware unit fit together.
What’s inside the new units.

This case houses the Astro Pi units, the hardware young people use when they take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge. Designed by the amazing Jon Wells for the very first Astro Pi Challenge, which was part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS in 2015, the case has become an iconic part of the Astro Pi journey for young people.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

As Jon says: “The design of the original flight case, although functional, formed an emotional connection with the young people who took part in the programme and is an engaging and integral part of the experience of the Astro Pi.”

People love to 3D print Astro Pi cases

Although printing an Astro Pi case is absolutely not essential for participating in the European Astro Pi Challenge, many of the teams of young people who participate in Astro Pi Mission Space Lab, and create experiments to run on the Astro Pi units aboard the ISS, do print Astro Pi cases to house the hardware that we send them for testing their experiments.

An aluminium-encased Astro Pi unit next to a 3D-printed Astro Pi unit replica.
An aluminium Astro Pi case, and a 3D printed case.

When we published the first how-to guide for 3D printing an Astro Pi case and making a working replica of the unit, it was immediately popular. We saw an exciting range of cases being produced. Some people (such as me) tried to make theirs look as similar as possible to the original aluminium Astro Pi flight unit, even using metallic spray paint to complete the effect. Others chose to go for a multicolour model, or even used glow-in-the-dark filament.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise that when we announced that we were sending upgraded Astro Pi units to the ISS — with cases again designed by Jon Wells — we received a flurry of requests for the files needed to 3D print these new cases.

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.
The new Astro Pi units are on board the ISS now.

Now that the commissioning of the new Astro Pi units, which arrived on board the International Space Station in December, is complete, we’ve been able to put together an all-new how-to guide to 3D printing your own Mark II Astro Pi case and assembling your own Astro Pi unit replica at home or in the classroom.

The guide also includes step-by-step instructions to completing the internal wiring so you can construct a working Astro Pi unit. We’re provided a custom version of the self-test software that is used on the official Astro Pis, so you can check that everything is operational.

If you’re new to 3D printing, you might like to try one of our BlocksCAD projects and practice printing a simpler design before you move on the the Astro Pi case.

Changes and improvements to the guide

We’ve made some changes to the original CAD designs to make printing the Mark II case parts and assembling a working Astro Pi replica unit as easy as possible. Unlike the STL files for the Mark I case, we’ve kept the upper and lower body components as single parts, rather than splitting each into two thinner halves. 3D printers have continued to improve since we wrote the first how-to guide. Most now have heated beds, which prevent warping, and we’ve successfully printed the Mark II parts on a range of affordable machines.

An Astro Pi case front is being printed on a 3D printer.
Printing an Astro Pi case.

The guide contains lots of hints and tips for getting the best results. As usual with 3D printing, be prepared to make some tweaks for the particular printer that you use.

In addition to the upper and lower case parts, there are also some extra components to print this time: the colour sensor window, the joystick cap, the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera housing, and the legs that protect the lenses and allow the Astro Pi units on the ISS to be safely placed up against the nadir window.

Four 3D-printed Astro Pi case fronts.
You can choose between four variants of the upper case part.

We’ve included files for four variants of the upper case part (see above). In order to keep costs down, the kits that we send to Astro Pi Mission Space Lab teams have a different PIR sensor to the ones of the proper Astro Pi units. So we’ve produced files for upper case parts that allow that sensor to be fitted. If you’re not taking part in the European Astro Pi Challenge, this also offers a cheaper alternative to creating an Astro Pi replica which still includes the motion detection capability:

We’ve also provided versions for the upper case part that have smaller holes for the push buttons. So, if you don’t fancy splashing out on the supremely pressable authentic buttons, you can use other colourful alternatives, which typically have a smaller diameter.

A 3D-printed Astro Pi unit replica with legs attached.
The guide includes files for printing the Astro Pi’s protective legs.

Do share photos of your 3D-printed Astro Pi cases with us by tweeting pictures of them to @astro_pi and @RaspberryPi_org.

One week left to help young people make space history with Astro Pi Mission Zero

It’s still not too late for young people to take part in this year’s Astro Pi beginners’ coding activity, Mission Zero, and suggest their ideas for the names for the two new Astro Pi units! Astro Pi Mission Zero is still open until next Friday, 18 March.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

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How did we build the new Astro Pi computers for the International Space Station?

Post Syndicated from Sam Duffy original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/building-new-astro-pi-units-international-space-station/

We are really excited that our two upgraded Astro Pi units have arrived on the International Space Station. Each unit contains the latest model of the Raspberry Pi computer, plus a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera and a host of sensors on a custom Sense HAT, all housed inside a special flight case designed to keep everything cool and protected. Here is the story of how the Astro Pi units were built:

The upgraded Astro Pi units have been designed and built in collaboration with ESA Education, the European Space Agency’s education programme. The Astro Pis’ purpose is for young people to use them in the European Astro Pi Challenge. The film highlights the units’ exciting new features, such as a machine learning accelerator and new camera, which can capture high-quality images of Earth from space using both visible light and near-infrared light.

Astro Pi MK II hardware plus a Coral machine learning accelerator.
The new Astro Pi unit, with its camera and machine learning accelerator.

There’s an extended team behind the new hardware and software, not just us working at the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the European Space Agency.

“Thanks to our friends at ESA, and all the people who have shared their unique expertise and knowledge with us, […] we’ve managed to take two ordinary Raspberry Pi computers from the production line in Wales and see them end up on the International Space Station. It’s been a real privilege to get to work with such an amazing group of space professionals.”

– Richard Hayler, Senior Programme Manager and lead engineer of the Astro Pi units

The new Astro Pis are all ready to run young peoples’ computer programs as part of the European Astro Pi Challenge. The young people who successfully proposed experiments for the 2021/22 round of Astro Pi Mission Space Lab have just submitted their programs to us for testing. These programs will run the teams’ experiments on the new Astro Pis in May.

Your young people’s code in space

There is still time until 18 March to take part in the 2021/22 round of Astro Pi Mission Zero. Mission Zero is a beginners’ coding activity for all young people up to age 19 in ESA member and associate states. Mission Zero is free, can be completed online in an hour, and lets young people send their unique message to the astronauts on board the ISS.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

To take part, participants follow our step-by-step guide to write a simple Python program. Their program will display their message to the astronautsvia the Astro Pi’s LED display (complete with ‘sunglasses’). Parents or educators support the participants by signing up for a mentor code to submit the young people’s programs.

All Mission Zero participants receive a certificate showing the exact time and location of the ISS when their program was run — their moment of space history to keep. And this year only, Mission Zero is extra special: participants can also help name the two new Astro Pi units

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.

You can watch ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer unpack and assemble the Astro Pi units in microgravity on board the ISS. It’s so exciting to work with the European Space Agency in order to send young people’s code into space. We hope you and your young people will take part in this year’s Astro Pi Challenge.

PS If you want to build your own replica of the Astro Pi units, we’ve got a treat for you soon. Next week, we’ll share a step-by-step how-to guide, including 3D printing files.

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Raspberry Pi computers are speeding to the International Space Station

Post Syndicated from Olympia Brown original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/astro-pi-rocket-launch-21-space-raspberry-pi-computer/

This morning, our two new Astro Pi units launched into space. Actual, real-life space. The new Astro Pi units each consist of a Raspberry Pi computer with a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera and a host of sensors, all housed inside a special space-ready case that makes the hardware suitable for the International Space Station (ISS).

Astro Pi MK II hardware.

The journey to space for two special Raspberry Pi computers

Today’s launch is the culmination of a huge piece of work we’ve done for the European Space Agency to get the new Astro Pi units ready to become part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

After lift-off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the new Astro Pi units are currently travelling on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon 2 spacecraft, the module atop the rocket. You can watch the launch again here.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spits fire as it lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX rocket is delivering the special Raspberry Pi computers to the ISS today. © SpaceX

Also travelling with our Astro Pi units are food and some Christmas presents for the astronauts on board the ISS, materials for a study of the delivery of cancer drugs; a bioprinter for experiments investigating wound healing; and materials for a study of how detergents work in microgravity.

The Dragon 2 spacecraft will berth with the ISS tomorrow, with NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn monitoring its arrival. ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and another colleague will be there to unpack its cargo. You can watch the process of unpacking tomorrow, Wed 22 December, at 8.30am GMT / 9.30am CET. In the new year, Matthias will be switching our Astro Pi units on and getting them ready to run the code written by young people participating in the European Astro Pi Challenge. The new Astro Pi units will replace Astro Pi units Ed and Izzy, which have been on the ISS for 6 years — ever since the very first Astro Pi Challenge with British ESA astronaut Tim Peake in 2015.

The International Space Station.
The International Space Station, where the special Raspberry Pi computers will arrive tomorrow, © ESA–L. Parmitano, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

We’re looking forward to seeing the amazing experiments this year’s Astro Pi Mission Space Lab teams will perform on the new hardware, and what they’ll discover about life on Earth and in space. We also can’t wait to see what the young people participating in Astro Pi Mission Zero will name the new Astro Pi units!

Building space-ready Astro Pi units

None of us on the team working on the Astro Pi Challenge here at the Foundation are aerospace engineers. While building the new Astro Pi units, we’ve learned so much.

Animation of how the components of the Mark 2 Astro Pi hardware unit fit together.

To get the Astro Pis ready to be loaded onto the rocket has been a project of more than three years. That’s because, in addition to manufacturing the Astro Pi units, we also had to ensure they pass the necessary safety and certification process. The official name for this is the Safety Gate process. It’s been set up by ESA and NASA to ensure that any items sent to the ISS are safe to operate on board the station.

For the three separate safety panels the Astro Pi units needed to get through, we put the units through different tests and completed various safety reports. The tests included:

  • A vibration test: To make sure the Astro Pi units survive the rigours of the launch, we tested them using the sophisticated rigs at Airbus in Portsmouth. These rigs are capable of simulating the vibrations produced by various different launch vehicles. We needed to test all possible options, because the Astro Pi units didn’t have a confirmed vehicle to travel to the ISS yet.
A vibration test of the new Raspberry Pi-powered Astro Pi units at Airbus in Portsmouth
  • A thermal test: To make sure no harm can possibly come to the crew from the Astro Pi units, we needed to check that the touch temperature of the Astro Pi units’ surface is never above 45°C.
  • A test for sharp edges: Each Astro Pi unit also needed to be manually inspected by someone wearing a latex glove who carefully feels the case for sharp edges.
Testing the new Raspberry Pi-powered Astro Pi units for sharp edges using a latex glove.
  • Stringent, military-grade electromagnetic emissions and susceptibility tests: These are required to guarantee that the Astro Pi units won’t interfere with any ISS systems, and that the units themselves are not affected by other equipment on board.
  • We built two additional Astro Pi units and sent them to NASA so that they could test that plugging the units into the ISS power grid wouldn’t cause a power overload. 

For almost all of these tests, we created custom software to do things like stress the Astro Pi units’ processors, saturate the network links, and generally make the units work as hard as possible. 

To accompany these safety and test reports, we also had to create the Flight Safety Data Package (FSDP), which contains exact technical information about every component of the Astro Pi hardware, and about all the necessary safety controls to qualify the use of certain materials and safely manage operation of the units. The current FSDP paperwork stands at over 700 pages, which thankfully we haven’t had to actually print out!

Young people’s code will run on the new Astro Pi units next year — is yours on board?

All of this work culminated today in the Astro Pis being launched up into space from Cape Canaveral. And we’re doing all this so that more young people can take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge and send messages to the ISS astronauts using code as part of Mission Zero, or write code for new, ambitious experiments to run on the ISS as part of Mission Space Lab.

Young people can take part in Astro Pi Mission Zero right now! Mission Zero is a beginners’ coding activity for all young people under the age of 19 in ESA member and associate states. It gives them the chance to write code to show their own message to the astronauts on board the ISS using the Astro Pi units. And this time, Mission Zero participants can also vote to name the new Astro Pi units!

To participate, young people follow our step-by-step instructions to write their Mission Zero code. As an adult supporting a young person on Mission Zero, all you need to do is sign up as a mentor to get them a registration code for their Mission Zero entry. Once your young person’s code has run in space, we’ll send you a special certificate for them showing where the ISS, and the Astro Pi computers, were when their code ran.

Inspire a young person to learn about coding and space science today with Astro Pi Mission Zero!

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Young people can name a piece of space history with Astro Pi Mission Zero

Post Syndicated from Claire Given original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/free-beginner-coding-activity-astro-pi-mission-zero-name-space-history/

Your young people don’t need to wait to become astronauts to be part of a space mission! In Mission Zero, the free beginners’ coding activity of the European Astro Pi Challenge, young people can create a simple computer program to send to the International Space Station (ISS) today.

The International Space Station.
The International Space Station, where your young people’s Mission Zero code could run soon! © ESA–L. Parmitano, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

This year, young people taking part in Astro Pi Mission Zero have the historic chance to help name the special Raspberry Pi computers we are sending up to the ISS for the Astro Pi Challenge. Their voices will decide the names of these unique pieces of space exploration hardware.

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in the ISS's cupola.
Samantha Cristoforetti is one of the ESA astronauts who will be on the ISS when young people’s Mission Zero code runs. © ESA

Your young people can become part of a space mission today!

The European Astro Pi Challenge is a collaboration by us and ESA Education. Astro Pi Mission Zero is free, open to all young people up to age 19 from eligible countries*, and it’s designed for beginner coders.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

You can support participants easily, whether at home, in the classroom, or in a youth club. Simply sign up as a mentor and let your young people follow the step-by-step instructions we provide (in 19 European languages!) for writing their Mission Zero code online. Young people can complete Mission Zero in around an hour, and they don’t need any previous coding experience.

A mother and daughter do a coding activity together at a laptop at home.

Mission Zero is the perfect coding activity for parents and their children at home, for STEM or Scouts club leaders and attendees, and for teachers and students who are new to computer programming. You don’t need any special tech for Mission Zero participants. Any computer with a web browser and internet connection works for Mission Zero, because everything is done online.

We need young people to help name the Raspberry Pis we’re sending to space

Mission Zero participants follow our step-by-step instructions to create a simple program that takes a humidity reading on board the ISS and displays it for the astronauts — together with the participants’ own unique messages. And as part of their messages, they can vote for the name of the new hardware for the Astro Pi Challenge, hardware with Raspberry Pi computers at its heart.

Astro Pi MK II hardware.
The shiny new Raspberry Pi-powered hardware for the Astro Pi Challenge, which will replace the Raspberry Pi-powered Astro Pi units that have run Astro Pi participants’ code on board the ISS every year since 2015.

The new Astro Pi hardware, which will travel up in a rocket to the ISS on 21 December, is so new that these special augmented computers don’t even have names yet. Participants in Astro Pi Mission Zero get to vote for a name inspired by our list of ten renowned European scientists. Their vote will be part of the message they send to space.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spits fire as it lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX rocket will deliver the special Raspberry Pi computers to the ISS. © SpaceX

What do your young people want to say in space?

Your young people’s messages to the ISS astronauts can say anything they like (apart from swear words, of course). Maybe they want to send some encouraging words to the astronauts or tell them a joke. They can even design a cool pixel art image to show on the Astro Pi hardware’s display:

Pixel art from Astro Pi Mission Zero participants.
Some of the pixel art from last year’s Astro Pi Mission Zero participants.

Whatever else they code for their Mission Zero entry, they’re supporting the astronauts with their important work on board the ISS. Since Mission Zero participants tell the Astro Pi hardware to read and display the humidity level inside the ISS, they provide helpful information for the astronauts as they go about their tasks.

Their own place in space history

After a participant’s Mission Zero code has run and their message has been shown in the ISS, we’ll send you a special certificate for them so you can commemorate their space mission.

The certificate will feature their name, the exact date and time their code ran, and a world map to mark the place on Earth above which the ISS was while their message was visible up there in space.

10 key things about Astro Pi Mission Zero

  1. It’s young people’s unique chance to be part of a real space mission
  2. Participation is free
  3. Participants send the ISS astronauts their own unique message
  4. This year only, participants can help name the two special Raspberry Pi computers that are travelling up to the ISS
  5. Mission Zero is open to young people up to age 19 who live in eligible countries (more about eligibility here)
  6. It’s a beginners’ coding activity with step-by-step instructions, available in 19 languages
  7. Completing the activity takes about one hour — at home, in the classroom, or in a Scouts or coding club session
  8. The activity can be done online in a web browser on any computer
  9. Participants will receive a special certificate to help celebrate their space mission
  10. Mission Zero is open until 18 March 2022

If you don’t want to let any young people in your life miss out on this amazing opportunity, sign up as their Mission Zero mentor today.


* The European Astro Pi Challenge is run as a collaboration by us at the Raspberry Pi Foundation and ESA Education. That’s why participants need to be from an ESA Member State, or from Slovenia, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, or Malta, which have agreements with ESA.

If you live elsewhere, it’s possible to partner with Mission Zero mentors and young people in an eligible country. You can work together to support the young people to form international Mission Zero teams that write programs together.

If you live elsewhere and cannot partner with people in an eligible country, Mission Zero is still an awesome and inspiring project for your young people to try out coding. While these young people’s code unfortunately won’t run on the ISS, they will receive a certificate to mark their efforts.

The post Young people can name a piece of space history with Astro Pi Mission Zero appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

We’re sending Raspberry Pi computers to space for the European Astro Pi Challenge

Post Syndicated from Olympia Brown original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/astro-pi-2021-news-rocket-launch-hardware/

We’re super excited to announce that the European Astro Pi Challenge is back for another year of amazing space-based coding adventures.

This time we are delighted to tell you that we’re upgrading the Raspberry Pi computers on the International Space Station (ISS) and adding new hardware to expand the range of experiments that young people can run in space!

What’s new with Astro Pi?

The first Astro Pi units were taken up to the ISS by British ESA astronaut Tim Peake in December 2015 as part of the Principia mission. Since then, 54000 young people from 26 countries have written code that has run on these specially augmented Raspberry Pi computers.

Working with our partners at the European Space Agency, we are now upgrading the Astro Pi units to include:

  • Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with 8GB RAM
  • Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera
  • Google Coral machine learning accelerator
  • Colour and luminosity sensor
  • Passive infrared sensor
Astro Pi MK II hardware.
The augmented Raspberry Pi computers we are sending up to the International Space station, in all their glory

The units will continue to have a gyroscope; an accelerometer; a magnetometer; and humidity, temperature, and pressure sensors.

Astro Pi MK II hardware with Coral machine learning accelerator.
The little device on the left is the Google Coral machine learning accelerator

The new hardware makes it possible for teams to design new types of experiments. With the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera they can take sharper, more detailed images, and, for the first time, teams will be able to get full-colour photos of the beauty of Earth from space. This will also enable teams to investigate plant health thanks to the higher-quality optical filter in conjunction with the IR-sensitive camera. Using the Coral machine learning accelerator, teams will also be able to develop machine learning models that allow high-speed, real-time processing.

Getting into space

The Astro Pi units, in their space-ready cases of machined aluminium, will travel to the ISS in December on the SpaceX Dragon Cargo rocket, launching from Kennedy Space Center. Once the resupply vehicle docks with the ISS, the units will be unpacked and set up ready to run Astro Pi participants’ code in 2022.

Getting the units ready for launch has been a significant effort from lots of people. Once we worked with our friends at ESA to agree on the new features and hardware, we commissioned the design of the new case from Jon Wells. Manufacturing was made significantly more challenging by the pandemic, not least because we weren’t able to attend the factory and had to interact over video calls.

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti aboard the ISS. Credit: ESA

Once we had the case and hardware ready, we could take on the huge battery of tests that are required before any equipment can be used on the ISS. These included the vibration test, to ensure that the Astro Pi units would survive the rigours of the launch; thermal testing, to make sure that units wouldn’t get too hot to touch; and stringent, military-grade electromagnetic emissions and susceptibility tests to guarantee that the Astro Pi computers wouldn’t interfere with any ISS systems, and would not themselves be affected by other equipment that is on board the space station.

Huge thanks to Jon Wells and our collaborators at Airbus, Google, MidOpt, and Shearline Precision Engineering for everything they’ve done to get us to the point where we were able to ship the new Astro Pi units to the Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company (ALTEC) in Italy for final preparations before their launch.

There are two Astro Pi missions for young people to choose from: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab. Young people can participate in one or both of the missions! Participation is free and open for young people up to age 19 in ESA member states (exceptions listed on the Astro Pi website).

Mission Zero

In Mission Zero, young people write a simple Python program that takes a sensor reading and displays a message on the LED screen. This year, participation in Mission Zero also gives young people the opportunity to vote for the names of the two new computers. Mission Zero can be completed in around an hour and is open to anyone aged 7 to 19 years old. Every eligible entry is guaranteed to run on board the ISS and participants will receive an official certificate with the exact time and location of the ISS when their program ran.

Mission Zero opens today and runs until 18 March 2022.

Mission Space Lab

Mission Space Lab is for teams of young people who want to run their own scientific experiments on the Astro Pi units aboard the ISS. It runs over eight months in four phases, from idea registration to data analysis. 

Have a look at the winning teams from last year for amazing examples of what teams have investigated in the past. But remember — the new Astro Pi computers offer exciting new ways of investigating life in space and on Earth. We can’t wait to see what ideas participants come up with this year. 

To start, Mission Space Lab team mentors just need to send us their team’s experiment idea by 29 October 2021.

Follow our progress

You can keep updated with all of the latest Astro Pi news, including the build-up to the rocket launch in December, by following the Astro Pi Twitter account.

The post We’re sending Raspberry Pi computers to space for the European Astro Pi Challenge appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

How young people can run their computer programs in space with Astro Pi

Post Syndicated from Claire Given original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/how-young-people-run-computer-programs-in-space-astro-pi/

Do you know young people who dream of sending something to space? You can help them make that dream a reality!

We’re calling on educators, club leaders, and parents to inspire young people to develop their digital skills by participating in this year’s European Astro Pi Challenge.

The European Astro Pi Challenge, which we run in collaboration with the European Space Agency, gives young people in 26 countries* the opportunity to write their own computer programs and run them on two special Raspberry Pi units — called Astro Pis! — on board the International Space Station (ISS).

This year’s Astro Pi ambassador is ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Thomas will accompany our Astro Pis on the ISS and oversee young people’s programs while they run.

And the young people need your support to take part in the Astro Pi Challenge!

A group of young people and educators smiling while engaging with a computer

Astro Pi is back big-time!

The Astro Pi Challenge is back and better than ever, with a brand-new website, a cool new look, and the chance for more young people to get involved.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge

During the last challenge, a record 6558 Astro Pi programs from over 17,000 young people ran on the ISS, and we want even more young people to take part in our new 2020/21 challenge.

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake was the ambassador of the first Astro Pi Challenge in 2015.

So whether your children or learners are complete beginners to programming or have experience of Python coding, we’d love for them to take part!

You and your young people have two Astro Pi missions to choose from: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Mission Zero — for beginners and younger programmers

In Mission Zero, young people write a simple program to take a humidity reading onboard the ISS and communicate it to the astronauts with a personalised message, which will be displayed for 30 seconds.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge

Mission Zero is designed for beginners and younger participants up to 14 years old. Young people can complete Mission Zero online in about an hour following a step-by-step guide. Taking part doesn’t require any previous coding experience or specific hardware.

All Mission Zero participants who follow the simple challenge rules are guaranteed to have their programs run aboard the ISS in 2021.

All you need to do is support the young people to submit their programs!

Mission Zero is a perfect activity for beginners to digital making and Python programming, whether they’re young people at home or in coding clubs, or groups of students or club participants.

We have made some exciting changes to this year’s Mission Zero challenge:

  1. Participants will be measuring humidity on the ISS instead of temperature
  2. For the first time, young people can enter individually, as well as in teams of up to 4 people

You have until 19 March 2021 to support your young people to submit their Mission Zero programs!

Mission Space Lab — for young people with programming experience

In Mission Space Lab, teams of young people design and program a scientific experiment to run for 3 hours onboard the ISS.

Logo of Mission Space Lab, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge

Mission Space Lab is aimed at more experienced or older participants up to 19 years old, and it takes place in 4 phases over the course of 8 months.

Your role in Mission Space Lab is to mentor a team of participants while they design and write a program for a scientific experiment that increases our understanding of either life on Earth or life in space.

The best experiments will be deployed to the ISS, and teams will have the opportunity to analyse their experimental data and report on their results.

You have until 23 October 2020 to register your team and their experiment idea.

To see the kind of experiments young people have run on the ISS, check out our blog post congratulating the Mission Space Lab 2019/20 winners!

Get started with Astro Pi today!

To find out more about taking part in the European Astro Pi Challenge 2020/21, head over to our new and improved astro-pi.org website.

screenshot of Astro Pi home page

There, you’ll find everything you need to get started on sending young people’s computer program to space!


* ESA Member States in 2020: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia, and the United Kingdom. Other participating states: Canada, Latvia, Slovenia, Malta.

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