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Lizards Appear to Be Hardier Astronauts Than Mice

Russian scientists say that this experiment represents that longest period animals have ever spent alone in space and been recovered alive

smithsonian.com

If animals were to compete in a space-based reality survival show, lizards might emerge victorious. At least, that’s the indication of a Russian experiment concluded yesterday when a space capsule containing live mice, lizards, crayfish and fish was recovered around 750 miles south of Moscow, the Associated Press reports.

The capsule spent a month traveling 375 miles above the planet’s surface. That’s higher than the International Space Station’s orbit. The Russian scientists say that this experiment represents that longest period animals have ever spent alone in space and been recovered alive. In 2007, AP writes, the last research capsule to carry live animals into space spent only 12 days in orbit.

Not all of the research subjects made it, however.

Fewer than half of the 53 mice and other rodents who blasted off on April 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome survived the flight, Russian news agencies reported, quoting Vladimir Sychov, deputy director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the lead researcher.

Sychov said this was to be expected and the surviving mice were sufficient to complete the study, which was designed to show the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure. All 15 of the lizards survived, he said.

The ordeal is not over for the surviving mice and lizards, however. They will be flown back to Moscow, where researchers will perform laboratory tests on them to better understand the atrophying effects of space.

The AP does not mention what happened to the crayfish and fish.

More from Smithsonian.com:

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