For the first time, the International Space Station (ISS) will receive a squid. Not only one, but 128 bobtail squid chickens (a type of mollusk that glows in the dark), with 5,000 tardigrades, the most resistant microbe in the world.
Next Thursday (3), SpaceX, a company owned by billionaire Elon Musk, will carry out its 22nd ISS refueling mission, which will bring supplies to astronauts and, moreover, squid and tardigrades to study in microgravity.
ISS scientists will study the behavior of squid in space to find out whether microgravity affects their relationships with beneficial microbes. The Tardigrades, on the other hand, would go on to test in the extreme environment of space as “indestructible”.
New ISS passengers will be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday (3) at 2:29 pm (Brasilia time). The launch will be broadcast live on the SpaceX YouTube channel.
Squid and their germs
The small squid that goes into space is part of an experiment called “umami” (“Understanding microgravity in interactions between animals and microorganisms”, in English), led by Jamie Foster, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Science Cell From University of Florida, USA. The goal is to study how these animals relate to their natural microbes in space.
“Animals, including humans, depend on microbes to maintain a healthy digestive and immune system,” Foster said in an interview with CNN. “We do not fully understand how space changes these beneficial interactions. The Umani experiment uses a glow-in-the-dark bobble squid to investigate these important animal health issues.”
According to the scientist, bobtail squid puppies measuring only three millimeters are ideal for such studies because they are easy to carry in space and have an immune system similar to humans. The bodies of these animals glow in the dark when they are “colonized” by a type of bioluminescent bacteria found in Earth’s water.
On the ISS, squid will come into contact with this bacterium and astronauts will see if they continue to glow in the dark in microgravity and how the relationship between them and microbes changes in this isolated environment.
“As astronauts explore space, they carry a bag of different microbial species with them,” Foster said. “It is important to understand how these microbes are collectively called the microbiome, the changes in the space environment and how these relationships are established.”
This is not the first time squid has gone into space. Foster himself studied the relationship between these animals and their luminous bacteria at microgravity in 2011, when NASA’s Endeavor Space Shuttle took them for a spin in Earth’s orbit.
“Water beer”, as the Tardigrades are known, has a simple mission: to survive. These microscopic animals are already famous for resisting the dryness of a desert, literally the levels of cold and heat that turn water into steam. But do they survive in space?
However, this is also not the first time that Tardigrades have been sent into space. It is also possible that some of them may have “colonized” the moon in April 2019 after the spacecraft crashed on Earth’s natural satellite carrying thousands of people.
Thomas Boothby, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming, USA, is the leader of this new experiment. According to him, the purpose of this time is not to know if the Tardigrades survive, but rather to see what they actually do to adapt to the micro-gravitational environment of space.
The idea is to understand which genes are active to make these living beings adapt to space. “Understanding how to protect astronauts and other organisms from stress [da microgravidade] It will be necessary to ensure a safe and productive long-term space presence, ”Boothby told CNN.