Why NASA is sending a baby squid into space and then killing it

It's a momentous occasion for cephalopods everywhere as the first ever squid in space is now, uh, in space. The celebration will be short lived, however, as NASA plans to have the astronauts about Endeavour kill the squid in just a matter of hours, before it can break out of its tube of seawater and turn the battle lasers of the ISS on us. Or something.

The reason that a baby bobtail squid is going along for Endeavour's final flight in the first place is not to study whether squid turn into superhuman monster brain sucking aliens when exposed to cosmic rays and a low gravity environment, but rather to watch and see whether a certain type of bacteria inside the squid plays naughty or nice in orbit. Previous studies of harmful bacteria in space suggest that zero gee can make the bad bugs up to three times nastier, so the question is, what happens to the good bugs?

The good bugs in question are called Vibrio fischeri, and they glow. The squid uses them to cast light on the sea floor, offsetting its own shadow and helping it sneak up on prey. It's a clever symbiotic arrangement, and biologists are interested in what's going to happen when the bacteria are introduced to the baby squid in space. Astronauts have been instructed to give the bacteria and the squid 28 hours to get to know each other, and then "the squid will be killed and fixed solid, and brought back to Earth for examination." I have no idea what "fixed solid" means, but it's probably not something that the poor little squid has much hope of coming back from.

Just look at this little guy:

bobtail_squid.jpg

The overall goal of this study is to better understand how we humans might deal with our bacteria (and we're absolutely stuffed with bacteria of all kinds) during long-duration space missions, although my guess is that the overall goal will shortly change to emergency containment of a superhuman monster brain sucking alien baby squid that's seriously pissed off that astronauts are trying to kill it.

Good luck up there, fellas.

Via New Scientist

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