The animal astronauts crew launched into the orbit at 6:00AM EDT atop a Soyuz 2 rocket built by Russian that took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried Bion-M1 space capsule that has 15 geckos, 8 Mongolian gerbils, and 45 mice several other species. These are expected to live in orbit for a month, flying 575 kilometers above Earth while the scientists will monitor their health on the ground.
Nicole Rayl, the project manager of NASA’s part of the mission, says that there’s been a history of this sort of biological research in the past forty years, and NASA along with Russian side has been working in this area for all this time, which is remarkable. He further added that each mission brings an exceptional focus, be it the specimens being flown or the actual duration of mission.
While the project is being run and supervised by Federal Space Agency of Russia, namely Roscosmos, a panel of scientists from all over the world is also overseeing the many experiments of the mission. Scientists will be monitoring a number of health metrics of animals in space. The spacecraft will transmit information on the animals’ health along with various other conditions in the capsule.
One of the experiments done by NASA focuses on how radiation and microgravity can affect the sperm life in mice. Rayl said that in case humans start visiting other planets on longer flights, it’s very important to know if people can reproduce by sex in space. A few missions can really take decades, so reproduction in space could become a necessity.
Other experiments will take the wider view, examining how different systems in body are connected and altered during a spaceflight. The scientists often have keenly targeted experiments where they will closely be examining, say, “functions of cardiovascular system.”
After spending a month in the orbit, Bion-M1 will fall to the ground and scientists will start running tests on the collected animals. While the geckos, gerbils, mice and other species survive their fall through the atmosphere of Earth, scientists will caringly euthanize these animals for getting the data they require.