Russia puts mice, newts in space for a month (Update)

Apr 19, 2013
A Russian rocket carrying a capsule filled with 45 mice and 15 newts along with other small animals blasted off Friday on a month-long orbital mission that should pave the way for manned flights to Mars.

A Russian rocket carrying a capsule filled with 45 mice and 15 newts along with other small animals blasted off Friday on a month-long orbital mission that should pave the way for manned flights to Mars.

Live footage on the Roscosmos space agency website showed the Soyuz lifting off at 1000 GMT from the Russian-leased Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan with its treasured cargo and another experimental satellite on board.

The so-called Bion-M capsule is also carrying snails and gerbils as well as some plants and microflora.

"This is first and foremost to determine how our organisms adapt to weightlessness and to understand what we need to do to make sure that our organisms survive extended flights," the TsSKB-Progress space research centre's department head Valery Abrashkin told state television.

The meticulously-prepared experiment will last 30 days and see the capsule touch down softly with the help of a parachute in the central Russian Orenburg region on May 18.

A field research lab will be deployed on site to quickly test the animals' response to their journey and return to Earth.

The missions has been widely publicised by the state media as a unique experiment that no other country has pulled off in the past.

The Vesti 24 rolling news station even added a touch of drama by noting that two of the male mice got into a deadly fight during the course of preparations and "as a result, the entire crew (of mice) had to be urgently replaced."

Russia has long set its sights on Mars and is now targeting 2030 as the year in which it could begin creating a base on the Moon for flights to the Red Planet.

But recent problems with its once-vaunted space programme—including the embarrassing failure of a research satellite that Moscow tried sending up to one of Mars's moons last year—have threatened Russia's future exploration efforts.

President Vladimir Putin this month unveiled a new $50 billion drive for Russia to preserve its status as a top space power.

Those plans include the construction of a brand new cosmodrome from where humans will fly to space by the end of the decade.

Russia's trials and tribulations are watched closely by other space-faring nations because the Soyuz represents the world's only manned link to the constantly-staffed International Space Station.

But Russian scientists said the experiments being conducted on the mice and other animals would have been impossible aboard the station because they pose a sanitary hazard.

The experiment's designers said the tests will primarily focus on how microgravity impacts the skeletal and nervous systems as well organisms' muscles and hearts.

The small menagerie will be accompanied by 24 measuring devices and other scientific objects that will also be stationed outside the capsule to measure radiation levels.

The animals will be stored inside five special containers that will automatically open after reaching orbit and close once it is time to return to Earth.

France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) space centre said 15 of the 45 mice came from a French research lab that is cooperating with the study.

It added that five of the French mice came equipped with implanted sensors measuring their heart rates and blood pressure.

The capsule is scheduled to spin 575 kilometres (357 miles) above Earth.

Explore further: Collaboration aims to reduce, treat vision problems in astronauts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia launches six US satellites

Feb 06, 2013

A Russian Soyuz rocket on Wednesday successfully launched six US telecommunications satellites from the Baikonur space centre Moscow leases from the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan.

Russian rocket docks with space station

Dec 17, 2010

A Russian Soyuz space rocket carrying three astronauts on Friday docked with the International Space Station (ISS), Russia's mission control said.

Russia sets space crew's return after crash

Sep 12, 2011

Russia said Monday it would return three of the six international crew members on board the International Space Station to Earth later this week despite no immediate plans to send up their replacement.

Russia delays commercial space launches after crash

Sep 13, 2011

Russia will have to delay the upcoming launch of six US satellites and two commercial European craft due to last month's Soyuz carrier rocket mishap, Russian industry sources said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Light of life

2 hours ago

A fluorescent microscopic view of cells from a type of bone cancer, being studied for a future trip to deep space – aiming to sharpen our understanding of the hazardous radiation prevailing out there.

Local model better describes lunar gravity

7 hours ago

Two satellites orbiting the Moon as a part of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission have been mapping its inner structure by measuring subtle shifts in the pull of gravity on the ...

User comments : 0