The ISS has housed a variety of species over the years, from worms to quail. Animal research in space is going to gain a few additional members.
128 newborn glow-in-the-dark bobtail squid and over 5,000 tiny creatures are being transported to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The animals are tardigrades, more commonly referred to as water bears, and they are distributed around the world.
Something fishy is occurring.
The squid will be used to investigate the impacts of spaceflight on microbe-animal interactions. “Animals, including humans, rely on microorganisms to keep their digestive and immune systems healthy. We do not fully understand how spaceflight modifies these positive interactions,” principal investigator Jamie Foster, a professor in the University of Florida’s department of microbiology and cell science, told the “BBC.””
Prof. Foster continued, the squid will “address these important issues in animal health.” What makes the squid unique is its ability to glow in the dark due to an organ located in their sac. Additionally, their immune system is quite similar to that of humans.
Thanks to microscopic animals, we can now live better and longer in space.
Tardigrades are the most tenacious organisms on the planet, capable of surviving up to 30 years without food or water. As a result, they are great for determining a person’s tolerance for living in severe situations. The findings may aid in our understanding of the stressors that impact humans in space. “One of the things we are really keen to do is understand how tardigrades are surviving and reproducing in these environments and whether we can learn anything about the tricks that they are using and adapt them to safeguard astronauts,” explained Thomas Boothby, assistant professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming and one of the study’s principal investigators.
“Tardigrades are a group of microscopic animals that are renowned for their ability to survive a number of extreme stresses,” Asst. Prof. Boothby explained to “CNN.” “Tardigrades can withstand being dried out, frozen, and heated over the boiling point of water. They can withstand thousands of times the amount of radiation that humans can and can survive for days or weeks on little or no oxygen.” “They’ve been shown to survive and reproduce during spaceflight, and can even survive prolonged exposure to the vacuum of outer space.” he added.
“Ultimately this information will give us insights into how one of the toughest organisms on Earth is able to survive the rigors of spaceflight,” Asst. Prof. Boothby commented. “And our hope is that these insights will provide avenues for developing countermeasures or therapies that will help safeguard astronauts during prolonged space missions.”
“As astronauts explore space, they’re taking with them a company of different microbial species,” Prof. Foster explained. “And it’s really important to understand how those microbes, collectively called the microbiome, change in the space environment and how those relationships are established.”