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Launching Baby Squids and Tardigrades into Space

  • 31 May 2021
  • 3 min read

Why in News

NASA will send baby squids and tardigrades (also called water bears) to the International Space Station for conducting various scientific studies.

Key Points

  • The Study: These animals are part of two separate scientific studies.
    • Behavior of Tardigrades (water bears) in a spaceflight environment.
      • Tardigrades can adapt to extreme conditions on Earth, including high pressure, temperature and radiation.
    • Impact of microgravity conditions on the relationship between bobtail squids and beneficial microbes.
      • The squids are a part of the UMAMI (Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions) study which examines the effects of spaceflight on interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts.
  • Importance of the Study:
    • Host-microbe Relationship:
      • On Earth, it will help to find ways to protect and even enhance the complex relationship between animals and beneficial microbes, ensuring better human health and well being.
      • In space, the findings will help space agencies develop better measures to protect astronauts from adverse host-microbe alterations on long-duration missions.
    • Longer Spacefights:
      • The study on Tardigrades will allow researchers to study their hardiness close up, and possibly identify the genes that allow them to become so resilient. This will help in safer and longer spaceflights.
      • Similarly, a recent research in zebrafish has demonstrated how induced hibernation (torpor) may protect humans from the elements of space, especially radiation, during space flight.

International Space Station

  • ISS is a habitable artificial satellite - the single largest man-made structure in low earth orbit. Its first component was launched into orbit in 1998.
  • It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day.
  • The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada) but its ownership and use has been established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
  • It serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
  • Continuous presence at ISS has resulted in the longest continuous human presence in low earth orbit.
  • It is expected to operate until 2030.
  • Recently, China launched an unmanned module of its permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022.
    • The module, named "Tianhe", or "Harmony of the Heavens", was launched on the Long March 5B, China's largest carrier rocket.
  • India has also set its eye on building its own space station in low earth orbit to conduct microgravity experiments in space in 5 to 7 years.

Source: IE

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