The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station on June 3 will carry 5,000 water bears and 128 glowing baby squids.
Other than these special little creatures, the cargo resupply mission will also carry more than 7300 pounds of stuff that includes crew supplies, new solar panels and vehicle hardware.
The space mission will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida will take these creatures to space because of their special abilities. Studying how space travel affects them will help scientists in understanding the impact of space travel on humans and coming up with countermeasures against the adverse effects of microgravity.
Tardigrades, who are also known as water bears or moss piglets because of their appearance are micro-animals never larger than 1.5 mm, who are exceptionally known for their ability to adapt and survive in extreme environments. They even adapt in places where most of the life forms cannot.
Found everywhere from the depths of oceans to mountaintops, they can survive deadly radiation, extreme water, air deprivation and starvation. They have already demonstrated their ability to get through space vacuum when they were last sent to space in September 2007. After 10 days of their exposure to space, 68% of their specimens revived within 30 minutes of rehydration.
“One of the things we are really keen to do is understand how tardigrades are surviving and reproducing in these environments, and whether we can learn anything about the tricks that they are using and adapt them to safeguard astronauts,” said Thoman Boothby, the principal investigator of the experiment with the resilient creatures, in a news release by NASA.
Another special creature with a free ticket to space is glowing baby bobtail squid which have a special ability to glow, thanks to the bacteria that live inside their bodies. These squids have immune systems similar to humans that work in a symbiotic relationship — mutually dependent co-existence.
Studying how their relationship is affected by space travel will guide us in mitigating the adverse effects on human’s symbiotic relationships with bacteria that live in our bodies.