SCIENCE -- November 30, 2011 at 8:00 AM EDT
Worms in Space: Will Invertebrate Astronauts Help Us Get to Mars?
C. elegans worms, pictured above, are a model organism for studying cell behavior in space. Photo by Flickr via snickclunk.
In December 2006, the Discovery space shuttle launched into orbit carrying a seven-member crew, its first Scandinavian astronaut and 400 soil-dwelling, bacteria-munching microscopic worms.
Though not the first worms in space, they were still pioneers, becoming the first to produce 12 new generations of offspring, and do so inside a remotely automated system with no need for a biologist on board to oversee it. Meanwhile, back on Earth, a team of scientists observed the worms and gathered data via video beamed back from space.
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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