Water Bears Are About to Take a Rocket Ride to Space

It is not just astronauts who go into space. On NASA’s next cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS), water bears and glow-in-the-dark bobble squid are also heading there.

No, they are not going to be exotic pets for the Expedition 65 crew currently riding at the orbiting outpost. Instead, they will be put to work, which will help astronauts conduct a variety of scientific research.

Water bear

Water bears are micro-organisms so-called for their presence and aquatic habitat. Also known as tardigrades, small organisms are known for their ability to tolerate the environment, which most life forms would find very extreme. This, of course, makes water bears ideal for space-based studies.

Illustration of a water bear. NASA

During their Cell Science-04 research, astronauts will aim to identify genes involved in adaptation to water bears and survive in extreme environments.

The study results can shed more light on stress factors affecting humans in space and may aid the development of countermeasures.

Chief investigator Thomas Boothby said, “Spaceflight can be a really challenging environment for organisms, including humans, who have evolved for conditions on Earth.” “One of the things we are really looking forward to doing is understanding how tardigrades are living and breeding in these environments and whether we can learn anything about the tricks they are using and Can adapt them to protect astronauts. “

NASA astronaut and current ISS crew member Megan McArthur also talked about upcoming research in a video (below).

I can not wait to welcome the water bear @space Station! They will fly to the next station @ SpaceX Commercial re-supply launches along with many other science experiments. https://t.co/a8C32Q0EiD pic.twitter.com/nnXeb0Qole

– Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) 27 May, 2021

Glow-in-the-dark bobtail squid

Meanwhile, an experiment called umami will use bobtail squid to investigate the effects of spaceflight on the molecular and chemical interactions between beneficial germs and their animal hosts.

“Animals, including humans, rely on our microbes to maintain a healthy digestion and immune system,” said Jamie Foster, UMAMI’s principal investigator. “We do not fully understand how spaceflight alters these beneficial interactions. The UMAMI experiment uses a glow-in-the-dark bobble squid to address these important issues in animal health.”

Research results can lead to the development of measures that help astronauts stay healthy on long-term space missions to Mars and beyond. NASA said the work could reveal more about the complex interactions between animals and beneficial germs, and how germs communicate with animal tissues.

“Such knowledge can help identify ways to protect and enhance these relationships for better human health and well-being on Earth,” the space agency said.

On Thursday, June 3, the creatures will leave for the International Space Station as part of the SpaceX cargo mission to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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