It looks like Stuart Little might make a terrible astronaut.
In 2009, NASA sent six mice to the International Space Station (on purpose, yes). Researchers in Belgium and Italy were looking to study how prolonged exposure to micro-gravity might affect the skin and physiology of the mice. Along with the six mice in space, six identical mice were kept on the ground in similar conditions as a control group. Both groups of mice were kept in the specially designed Mice Drawer System containment unit.
At three months, it was the longest space mission for rodents to date. The 91-day mission for the mice was equivalent to roughly seven human years. When the mice returned to earth, researchers compared their tissue samples with tissue samples from the grounded mice and found some interesting differences. The mice who had been in space had thinner skin and their hair growth cycle had been disrupted. You can read the full published paper here.
NASA has found that astronauts often have complaints of skin irritation and prolonged healing times for scratches while in orbit. So this research was the first step to try and better understand what might be happening at the microscopic level. Clearly more studies are needed, but these results hint at the myriad of difficulties humans will face on long duration space flights.
Here's some more geek from the week:
- Nikon equipped a dog with a heart monitor and a camera. This is the result. [VIDEO/GALLERY]
- And speaking of dogs, a new study will track 3,000 golden retrievers to study genetics of disease.
- The panther chameleon in Madagascar, once thought to be a single species, turns out to be ELEVEN different species.
- Giraffes are still a marvel of evolution.
- Retreating glaciers are actually uncovering bodies from all eras once thought lost to snow and ice.
- Too stressed at work? Taking a few minutes to look at nature might change your brain.
- Are you a coffee drinker? You could be doing it wrong. [VIDEO]
- This photo archive maps 40,000 old photos from the New York Public Library to streets of the city. WARNING: it's addicting.
- How do you fight the growing problem of space debris? One suggestion is to put a laser cannon on the International Space Station.
- Jupiter's gravity is so strong, it keeps the surface of its moon, Io, in constant flux.
- Black hole jet is firing blobs of plasma at 98% the speed of light.
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist