SpaceX launched a rocket to the International Space Station on Thursday carrying the requirements for a wide range of scientific experiments, including a quantity of squid.
The spacecraft, which was chartered by the US space agency NASA, was launched from Florida, and the Dragon capsule separated from the Falcon 9 rocket about 12 minutes after liftoff, and will dock with the space station on Saturday.
The rocket is carrying small samples of a species of squid, the Hawaiian short-tailed squid, with the aim of studying the effect of weightlessness on interactions between bacteria and their hosts.
Part of the squid will already be exposed to bacteria once it enters the International Space Station, while another part will remain untouched. After 12 hours, all the squid will be frozen, waiting to be returned to the ground where they will be studied.
“Animals, including humans, rely on microbes to keep their digestive and immune systems healthy,” a statement quoted lead tester Jamie Foster as saying.
“We don’t yet fully understand how spaceflight alters these interactions,” she added. The experiment could therefore help in the future to develop techniques to protect the health of astronauts participating in long-term missions in space.
The SpaceX rocket also carries microscopic organisms called tardigrades or water bears, which are known for their ability to resist, and scientists want to study how they adapt in space.
In all, the supply vehicle carries more than 3,000 kilograms of scientific testing supplies, including cotton and a portable ultrasound machine.