Baby Squids.Jamie S. Foster / NASA
The squid has an immune system similar to that of humans, so it can help preserve the health of astronauts on long trips
Thousands of tiny beings will arrive at the Space Station through SpaceX mission 22
More of 100 baby squid and 5,000 microscopic animals are launched to the International Space Station (ISS) this Thursday. The creatures, along with other materials for experiments, will arrive aboard Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket, the space company of tycoon Elon Musk. These living things will help scientists understand the effects of space flight.
The launch, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled at 1:29 p.m. local time, (that is, about 8:29 p.m. on the Peninsula) and will be broadcast live by NASA, on its website. Space X mission 22 will also serve to supply the Space Station with solar panels and material to study other phenomena in space such as the resistance of cotton or the formation of kidney stones in space.
The Squid’s Immune System
The 128 baby squid, of the order Sepiolida, will be used as part of research on the effects of space flight on beneficial interactions between microbes and animals. Other animals included in the shipment will be the so-called ‘water bears’ or tardigrades.
Surprisingly, the squid has an immune system similar to that of humans. NASA notes that the experiment (which is part of the UMAMI program) could support the development of protective measures to preserve the health of astronauts during long space missions.
“Animals, including humans, depend on their microbes to maintain a healthy digestive and immune system. We do not fully understand how spaceflight alters these beneficial interactions,” he explains Jamie Foster, principal investigator of the experiment. Although the goal is to understand the internal changes that occur in space, the discoveries could also be applied on Earth. At least, that’s NASA’s hope.
In the case of tardigrades, they are creatures that tolerate more extreme environments than most forms of life. That makes them a perfect organism to study biological survival in extreme conditions on Earth and in space. The results could improve understanding of stressors affecting humans in space and support the development of countermeasures.