Scientists from the North-western, sending 20 Mice to Space  

To learn more on the physiological effects of living in space, scientists, as a part of a North-western led mission are launching twenty laboratory mice on to the orbit by next week. 

Fred Turek and Martha Vitaterana, both North-western scientists are leading a NASA funded project on the study of space’s near gravity-free environment affecting the mice – their circadian rhythms, metabolism, and their other physiological systems. According to researchers, this would lead them to provide better assistance to the astronauts, particularly their health, especially when on long-duration space missions, and possible expeditions to Mars. 

In a statement, Turek, Director of North-western’s Centre for Sleep and Circadian Biology mentioned that trips to and from Mars might take several years, and hence it is essential to determine how gut’s micro biota might get altered at zero gravity over long time spans. Officially been called as the ‘Rodent Research -7’, this research mission is one of the five scientific investigations that have been scheduled for launch on the morning of 29th June from Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Onboarding SpaceX Dragon, Falcon 9 rocket will take the mice to their way to the ISS (International Space Station). 

Seven team members along with Turek and Vitaterna is stationed in Florida since the last week, getting ready for the launch on the 29th. Along with mice space mission, scientists and dozens of investigators are examining data collected from Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly, identical twins on their one year mission on board the ISS. The outcome from the twin study is going to get published later in this year. 

In her statement, Vitaterna, also Deputy Director at the Centre for Sleep and Circadian Biology said that it is of paramount importance to learn how space travel can impact the circadian system, as it coordinated many critical biological processes. He further mentioned that the lift-offs exertion, the absence of gravity and living arrangements that are confined, all adds up to the high stress of living in space, and the key in adopting the same may lie in the body’s ability in maintaining harmony across all the systems. 

Out of 20, ten mice will spend a record of 90 days in the orbit. Research on the space-bound mice would be compared to the ones kept in three various control groups, including the one living in NASA’s simulator, a replica or the minute by minute conditions as inside the space station, except with gravity. She further stated that with this new mission, there will be control over diet and will also examine the liver, spleen, and fat to learn how individual components affect one another up in space. 

Scientists from the Rush University Space Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago are also participating in this study on mice.