A SpaceX rocket took off Thursday to the International Space Station with on board a whole series of scientific experiments, including surprising inhabitants: squid.
The spacecraft, whose services are hired by NASA, was launched from Florida at 1:29 p.m. local time (5:29 p.m. GMT). The Dragon capsule detached from the Falcon 9 rocket approximately 12 minutes after takeoff. She is due to dock with the Space Station (ISS) on Saturday.
Young specimens of a species of squid (Euprymna scolopes) are embarked on the trip, with the aim of studying the effect of weightlessness on the interactions between bacteria and their hosts.
Part of the squid will indeed be exposed, once on board the ISS, to bacteria. Some will be kept intact. After 12 hours, all will be frozen until they return to Earth, where they will be studied.
“Animals, including humans, rely on microbes to keep their digestive and immune systems healthy,” said Jamie Foster, chief responsible for the experiment, quoted in a statement. “We do not yet fully understand how spaceflight alters these interactions.”
The experiment could thus help, in the future, to develop techniques to protect the health of astronauts participating in long-term missions in space.
Also aboard the SpaceX rocket: tardigrades, also nicknamed water bears, microscopic organisms known for their resistance. Scientists want to study how they adapt in space.
“One of the things we really want to do is understand how tardigrades survive and reproduce in these environments, and if we can learn anything about the stratagems they use and adapt them to protect astronauts.” , explained Thomas Boothby, scientist in charge of this study.
Cotton, portable ultrasound device … in all, the resupply mission carries more than 3,000 kg of scientific cargo.