So, you see, anyone can become an astronaut.
SpaceX is currently preparing for its 22nd refueling mission to the ISS. During these types of missions, hundreds of kilograms of cargo – including research equipment and astronaut supplies – are often delivered to the space station. And this time, there’s some weird “stuff” in between. Because aboard the Dragon, tardigrades and newborn squids travel.
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Tartars are incredibly strong organisms that live in the most extreme environments. Plus, they seem to be able to survive insane conditions. Recently, scientists put tardigrades in a loaded pistol and shot them at high speed. And even then, courageous creatures are not always dead. This makes them fascinating organisms for studying biological survival under extreme conditions, both on Earth and in space. And so SpaceX decided to add them to its shopping list for the ISS.
Tartars are microscopic organisms that can be found in the soil and on plants. They reach a body length of around half a millimeter and a width of around 1/5 of a millimeter, making them almost invisible to the naked eye. Tartars are widespread in nature. A tuft of moss, for example, can accommodate at least thousands of specimens. Moreover, they are tough rascals. For example, you can freeze them for more than thirty years: after thawing, they simply resume their life.
The researchers hope the tardigrades will provide a better understanding of the stressors humans face in space. In this way, countermeasures can be taken. For example, researchers want to study which genes are involved in the adaptation and survival of tardigrades in stressful environments, such as the microgravity of space. “Space travel is very difficult for organisms,” said study leader Thomas Boothby. “Also for people who have adapted to the conditions of the earth. So we want to understand how tardigrades survive and reproduce in harsh environments. We also want to see if we can find out more about the “tricks” they use and if we can adopt them to protect astronauts. “
But tardigrades aren’t the only space travelers. Newborn squid are also on the guest list. Specifically, the gaat species Scolopes of Euprymna in the space. This little cephalopod is an interesting organism because it glows in the dark. This is because it lives in symbiosis with bioluminescent bacteria Vibrio fischeri, which is located in a special luminescent organ in the mantle cavity. Researchers hope the squid will provide a better understanding of how microbes respond to space travel. They will therefore study the relationship between squid and microgravity symbiotic microbes.
Why is this important? Previous research has already shown that squid in zero gravity have a harder time absorbing bacteria. And it is worrying. Because we humans also have a lot of good bacteria in our bodies that we desperately need. If the good bacteria in space get in the way, it can also have consequences for the health of astronauts. The researchers therefore want to explore these questions further. “Animals, including humans, depend on microbes for a healthy digestive and immune system,” said researcher Jamie Foster. “However, we don’t fully understand how space travel changes these beneficial interactions. We hope to gain more knowledge about this through experiments with luminescent squid. “
The work could lead to a better understanding of the complex interactions between animals and beneficial microbes. Such knowledge can also help find ways to protect and improve our relationship with germs. And it could even have important implications for better human health and well-being on Earth.
In addition to tardigrades and squids, the researchers will also test new technical gadgets – such as solar panels and robotic arms – in space and try to find out why astronauts are more likely to have kidney stones.
Watch all the experiments and studies that will soon be carried out on the ISS in this video.
All in all, there are once again some interesting experiences on the program. Experiences that will eventually teach us more about the harsh environment of the universe and the challenges we still have to overcome.