Lizards, mice return to Earth alive after month alone in orbit

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Astronauts have to endure rigorous training in order to prepare to go to space. Meanwhile, scientists are continuing to study the effects that space travel has on the body. In a recent experiment, Russian scientists sent a space capsule into orbit carrying mice, lizards and other small animals. This space capsule has finally returned.

This experiment is currently the longest of its kind. Animals were last sent into space in 2007 for a trip that only lasted 12 days. This new capsule stayed in orbit for a total of 30 days and reached 575 kilometers (345 miles) above Earth, higher than the orbit of the International Space Station.

So what did the scientists learn from this experiment? Firstly, lizards fare better in space than mice. All of the lizards sent into orbit survived, with fewer than half of the mice doing the same. The capsule also contained other small animals, who all died due to a technical malfunction. Sad.

The surviving animals will be studied, according to Vladimir Sychov, director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the lead researcher. Fortunately, the amount of surviving mice is enough to study the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on the creatures’ cell structures.

The data the scientists will collect on these animals should help us to better understand microgravity’s effect on both animals and humans. When animals (humans included) travel into space, there are a variety of effects on the body. Conditions such as calcium loss, shrinking muscles, and blood pressure changes have been previously reported. Most of these effects are generally temporary, but some effects have proven to be more lasting.

This research is important in our ongoing hopes to travel to Mars, which will require a much longer time in space. The medical conditions related to such a lengthy trip will need to be looked at in order to figure out a way to lessen the effects on future space travelers.


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