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243: Astro Pi Challenge from Raspberry Pi Foundation

Astro Pi Challenge calls on young people to run their own experiments on the International Space Station.

I find out more from Olympia Brown, Head of Youth Partnerships, Raspberry Pi Foundation. 

Two upgraded Raspberry Pi computers were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2021, enabling young people aged 19 and under to run scientific experiments in space and communicate with astronauts aboard the ISS.

The European Astro Pi Challenge from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, in partnership with the European Space Agency, empowers young people, no matter their experience with computers, to write a simple computer program and share a message with the astronauts orbiting 408km above the Earth. The two Raspberry Pi computers will replace older, less-advanced models called Ed and Izzy that were originally deployed as part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission in 2015.

The European Astro Pi Challenge Mission Zero is aimed at beginners and primary school children and guides young explorers through the steps of writing a computer program to measure the humidity on the ISS. They can share a personal message and create a digital animation that appears on the LED display for the station’s astronauts to read and enjoy. Previous messages sent to the ISS included, ”Do you like pizza?”, “Can you take pets to space?” and “I want to go to space one day.”

Mission Zero is free, takes about an hour to complete and can be done at home or in the classroom through the Astro Pi website: Everyone that follows the step-by-step guidance is guaranteed to have their computer program message and animation run in space and will receive a personalised certificate to confirm the date, time and location of the ISS when their program was run. They will also have the opportunity to name the Raspberry Pi computers heading to space in December. Young people can have a go and send their messages to the space station until 18 March 2022.

Philip Colligan, CEO, Raspberry Pi Foundation said: “I can’t think of many free science-education projects for young people that have their own space programme. The Astro Pi Challenge is a fun activity to support children to discover coding, explore digital creativity and take part in an ‘out of this world’ learning opportunity. You don’t need to be a computer whizz to have a go, you don’t need specialist equipment, and parents don’t need to have any knowledge of coding to support their child to take part, we talk you through it step-by-step. We are putting the power of computing into children’s hands with one of the coolest educational opportunities out there.”

In addition to Mission Zero, the Astro Pi Challenge Mission Space Lab is aimed at teams of young people with some prior experience of coding. Teams develop more detailed experiment ideas in school or as part of a coding club that can run on the two Raspberry Pi computers, learning about the real-world impact that their experiments can have.

Olympia Brown, Head of Youth Partnerships, Raspberry Pi Foundation said: “More than 54,000 young people from 26 countries have taken part in the Astro Pi challenges to date to run their own computer programs in space . Our two new Raspberry Pi computers mean even more young people can learn about coding and digital creativity to empower them to share messages with the International Space Station. The upgraded technology allows young participants to develop and run more detailed and complex experiments than they have ever been able to before.”

The deadline for entries to this year’s Mission Space Lab has now closed but the most promising experiments will now be supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to progress their ideas, with selected teams receiving hardware to refine their experiment on Earth before the best ideas run on the ISS. Previous Mission Space Lab experiments designed by young people explored the health of forests and plant erosion and monitoring for wildfires. 

The Astro Pi Challenge has been designed to be “device neutral” meaning participants do not need to have access to a Raspberry Pi computer to take part – however they do need access to an internet-connected computer. 

 The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK-based charity that works to put computing and digital-creativity into the hands of young people all over the world. It aims to empower young people to harness the power of community and digital technology to solve problems that matter to them and to express themselves creatively .

 To find out more about the Astro Pi Challenge and take part in Mission Zero today, visit

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