Wednesday, 26 Sep, 2007 Science

Animal Crew Returns from Space


The Foton-M3 satellite, with mice, butterflies, lizards, snails and cockroaches on board, will land in the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after 12 days of experiments.

During a 12 days' flight there were 26 unique experiments conducted in chemistry, biology, physics and bio-technology, funded by Russia and the European Space Agency.

Mice were placed in air-tight module cells equipped with life-support system, were they were videotaped. Scientists tried to study the impact of gravity on mice and learn how these conditions can affect their water metabolism.

In another experiment called "Receptor" 20 French snails (Helix lucorum Linnaeus) took part in a study where scientists were trying to understand the gravity impact on sensory receptors.

Some experiments conducted in space may seem even weird, but their findings may become very important for science. For example, 20 lizards took part in a study were scientists cut off some of their body parts to find out how gravity and ionic radiation can affect the ability of the tissue to regenerate.

Experiment "Gecko" was conducted on five geckos that were injured before they were placed into biopack. The goal of that study was to reveal how body metabolism was affected by gravity.

Some of the researchers were developed by students from Voronej Medical University, Russia. For example, they elaborated an experiment were cockroaches were tested on their endurance and how their muscle tissue would be affected by gravity.

One of the interesting conceptions developed by young scientists was a study with butterflies. Researchers wanted to find out how will a butterfly grow inside a cocoon, what kind of wings they develop, if any at all or what sense of space they will have.

Scientists hope to learn a lot about biological effects of space flight. The research capsule with collection of insects and mammals provided almost complete weightlessness, which is very hard to create, said Yury Nosenko, the deputy chief of the Russian Federal Space Agency.

The findings could be very important not only for space technologies but for medicine too.

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