In the early hours of June 5, 2021, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) welcomed some unusual visitors: 128 baby bobtails squid and 5,000 tardigrad. The micro-animals were part of SpaceX’s 22nd cargo delivery mission, delivering more than £ 7,300 equipment and deliveries ̵
Newly hatched bobtail squid will allow scientists to study the effects of microgravity on beneficial bacteria that help maintain digestive and immune systems. Small creatures are ideal for work because of their ability to glow in the dark when exposed to Vibrio fischeri bacteria. Squid are not born with microbes, but rather acquire them from ocean waters.
Therefore, the ISS astronauts will add first bioluminescent bacteria to squid. They will then closely monitor the changes in the molecules that allow the squid to glow in space. Subsequently, the squid’s tissues will be frozen to preserve the molecular history of genes being turned off and on and returned to Earth. This will allow researchers to study whether and how space flight is changing symbiotic connection between cephalopods and microbes.
“Animals, including humans, rely on our microbes to maintain their health digestive and immune system, “Jamie Foster, a microbiologist at the University of Florida and principal investigator of Understanding Microgravity on the Interaction between Animals and Microbes (UMAMI), said in a statement.” We do not fully understand how space flight changes these useful ones interactions. “
Eight-legged tardigrades or water bears have inhabited Earth for more than 500 million years and are in practice indestructible. Tube-shaped creatures can withstand boiling and freezing temperatures, extreme radiation, high pressure, and even survive in general vacuum. NASA scientists hope that the insight into the genes that allow small animals to survive in highstress an environment like space will help them better protect people undertaking on long-term space missions.
“Space flight can be a really challenging environment organisms, including people who have evolved to Earth’s conditions, “said Thomas Bootby, chief researcher and assistant professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming. “One of the things we really want to do is understand how tardigrades survive and reproduce in these environments and whether we can learn anything about the tricks they use and adaptation to preservation astronauts. “
Astronauts are also testing new, compact solar panels for the ISS, investigation if robotic weapons can be controlled remotely using virtual reality and experimenting with ways of development durable cotton plants.
Resources: LiveScience.com, NPR.com, NASA.gov