Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Saturday, 8 November 2008

Space station link to Darwin ship

Beagle of the Galapagos, by John Chancellor  Gordon Chancellor
The replica of HMS Beagle will be built in Milford Haven dock

A charity which is trying to raise 5m to build a replica of Charles Darwin's ship HMS Beagle, has forged links with Nasa to help its marine research plans.

The HMS Beagle Trust, which is based in Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, hopes to start building the tall ship next year.

They then plan to take it out to sea to carry out scientific research which astronauts will assist by observing from the international space station.

They will be able to guide the Beagle to places of scientific interest.

HMS Beagle took scientist and naturalist Darwin around the world between 1831 and 1836.

He showed how natural selection could explain evolution and was famous for his exploration of the Galapagos islands in the Pacific ocean.

The charity says its version of the Beagle will look identical to the original on the outside but with a 21st Century interior. It plans to begin building it in Milford Haven next year.

When finished the new Beagle will give young people, teachers and scientists the chance to sail the oceans and visit far flung places like Australia and the Galapagos islands to carry out research.

"As well as carrying out oceanic work and sail training, the aim of the Beagle is to inspire," said Perry Crickmere from HMS Beagle Trust.

"Images of what is happening on a daily basis on the Beagle will also be streamed into classrooms.

"We can get the kids to do a project on it then explain the science behind it until the whole thing evolves from inspiration to enlightenment."

The link with NASA was first forged when astronaut Mike Barratt first read about the trust's plans in Science Magazine.

He is set to travel to the international space station next year giving him a tremendous view of the oceans.

Outline plans for the new Beagle  Detlev Loell
The new Beagle will look exactly the same as the old one on the outside with a 21st century interior

Eventually the Beagle will be in direct contact with Mr Barratt who will be able to guide the boat to areas of huge plankton blooms, which might not be decipherable from the sea.

"We will be able to tell them "this is a great place to sample" and we should be able to send imagery of what we see directly to them electronically," he said.

"It is closing a link in the chain that we really haven't had and that is a very big thing for us.

"When I looked at that project and I looked at what we do at NASA, the overlaps came immediately to mind.

"It is all about science and exploration and it involves sailing ships so to me it was a perfect thing to pursue."

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