Space Mice Launched Where No Man Has Gone Before
Conditions in space look quiet and peaceful, but the lack of gravity takes a toll on human bodies. With ambitious plans to man a mission to Mars, the effects of time in deep space need to be further explored before human explorers leave the earth.
Enter space mice, creatures on a mission. They’ve been (involuntarily) working to help humans understand how long-term exposure to space conditions, with a seminal experiment of 91 days aboard the International Space Station.
Six astromice were housed there and the results of their mission produced fascinating data about the threats to human for prolonged space travel. These included anemia, skin thinning, osteoporosis, and muscle wasting. Immune and heart function were also studied.
Dermal atrophy is a concern based on some data from humans. The main result from the mice trials showed significant reproductive organ decline, with mice losing almost all sperm due to degeneration of testicles.
Microgravity conditions have similar effects on mice and humans, and more tests are underway.
SpaceX, a private company launched by Elon Musk, has sent 20 mice into space to live for a month, while being monitored for physical responses to microgravity. They will be housed in a state-of-the-art NASA habitat.