NASA to send rats to space to test micro-gravity

Friday, 22 August 2014 - 4:50pm IST | Place: Washington | Agency: PTI

NASA is planning to send rats to the International Space Station (ISS) for a longer duration of up to three months to better understand the long-term effects of micro-gravity on living organisms.

While rodents have flown on space shuttle flights in the past, those missions have only lasted a week or two. The new mission, however, could range between 30 and 90 days, depending on the availability of spacecraft to ferry them on the round-trip, 'Space.Com' reported.

"This will allow animals to be studied for longer period of time on space station missions," said Julie Robinson, NASA's chief scientist for the space station.

Robinson said of the 35 or so studies where rats have gone into space, few of them have gone for more than two weeks.

The actual schedule for launching the rats to the space station and returning them back to Earth is not fully figured out yet, the report said.

Launching rats on for the experiment are preferable to mice, which are smaller and require less food, because rats' neurocognitive functioning is similar to that of humans, Robinson said.  

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