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Squid and tardigrades to the International Space Station

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    2nd Jun, 2021


NASA will send 128 glow-in-th p[0-

e-dark baby squids and some 5,000 tardigrades (water bears) to the International Space Station for research purposes.

Why they are being sent to ISS?

  • The water animals will be launched aboard SpaceX’s 22nd cargo resupply mission to the ISS.
  • The water animals will be the part of experiments that could help scientists design improved protective measures for astronauts going on long-duration space travel.
  • It is aimed at better understanding the interaction between the beneficial microbes interact with animals, potentially leading to breakthroughs in improving human health on Earth.

International Space Station

  • A space station is essentially a large spacecraft which remains in low-earth orbit for extended periods of time.
  • It is like a large laboratory in space, and allows astronauts to come aboard and stay for weeks or months to carry out experiments in microgravity.
  • The ISS has been in space since 1998, and has been known for the exemplary cooperation between the five participating space agencies that run it: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
  • Significance: On Earth, we may be able to find ways to protect and even enhance the complex relationship between animals and beneficial microbes, ensuring better human health and well being.
    • In space, the findings will help space agencies develop better measures to protect astronauts from adverse host-microbe alterations on long-duration missions.

Why are the sea animals needed at the ISS?

  • The water bears and bobtail squid will be involved in experiments aboard the floating laboratory.
  • They will be arriving in a semi-frozen state before they are thawed out, revived and grown in a special bioculture system.
  • Water bears are tiny animals (around 1mm long) and can adapt to extreme conditions on Earth, including high pressure, temperature and radiation.
  • Bobtail squid are also tiny (3 mm long) and beneficial microbes
  • Gene study: Researchers will be able to study their hardiness close up, and possibly identify the genes that allow them to become so resilient.
  • Better technique design: By learning how the water bears can survive in low gravity conditions, it would be possible to design better techniques to keep astronauts healthy on long-duration space missions.