Washington, United States: A SpaceX rocket will take off Thursday for the International Space Station carrying supplies for scientific experiments, including some surprising passengers — squids.
The rocket, whose use has been leased by NASA, will launch from Florida around 1:29 pm local time (1729 GMT). The Dragon capsule will detach from the Falcon 9 rocket about 12 minutes after take-off and is scheduled to dock at the ISS on Saturday.
Young specimens of the species Euprymna scolopes, known as bobtail squid, are on board for the trip, so scientists can study the effect of zero gravity on the interactions between bacteria and their host organisms.
Some of the squids will be exposed to bacteria once onboard the ISS, while others will be kept intact. After 12 hours, all the specimens will be frozen until their return to Earth, where they will be studied.
“Animals, including humans, rely on our microbes to maintain a healthy digestive and immune system,” said Jamie Foster, the principal investigator in the experiment, in a statement. “We do not fully understand how spaceflight alters these beneficial interactions.”
The experiment could help scientists in the future to develop techniques to protect the health of astronauts participating in long-duration missions in space.
Also, onboard the SpaceX rocket will be tardigrades, also known as “water bears” — microscopic organisms known for their resilience in extreme conditions.
Scientists want to study the way organisms adapt in space.
The rocket will also carry cotton and a portable ultrasound device among the more than 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds) of scientific cargo.
COVER IMAGE VIA JAMIE. S. FOSTERS/ UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA