Bees, frogs, monkeys and jellyfish… the weird and wonderful creatures that joined Nasa’s shuttle programme over the years

With the final lift-off in Nasa’s space shuttle programme only hours away, weather permitting, people across the world are turning their attention to what has been a remarkable 30 years.
Most of the focus is be on the scientific achievements and tragic loss of 14 lives in the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
But it wasn’t just human astronauts who boarded the shuttles.

In September 1992, Nasa scientists sent female frogs into space aboard Endeavour. They wanted to determine if reproduction and development occur normally in microgravity, so half the frogs eggs laid were placed in microgravity and the other half in normal gravity. All tadpoles returned to Earth in a healthy condition, but those raised in microgravity drowned because they didn't have a sense of up and down so were unable to take their first breaths on the water's surface

Many different animals have gone along for the ride too, to help mankind discover how life can adapt, or not, in space.
Among those to have made the journey are jellyfish, rats, frogs, tadpoles and honeybees.
This final journey will also be taking 30 mice to test the effect of zero gravity on bones. The findings could prove beneficial for both astronauts and osteoporosis sufferers.
Nasa’s first space shuttle flight was in April 1981; the 135th and final launch is set for today.
Now seems like the perfect time to raise a glass to these equally intrepid explorers.

Buzz lightyear: Challenger blasted-off in 1984 with more than 3,000 caged honeybees on board…

… although the lack of gravity didn’t affect the insects, who during Nasa’s seven-day mission managed to build honeycombs exactly like they do on Earth

Nasa flew these tiny worms to test a synthetic nutrient solution in 2003. They survived the wreckage of Columbia when it disintegrated on reentry…

… and then cycled through four of five generations in the following three months before they were recovered from the debris

Scientists placed two squirrel monkeys aboard Challenger in 1985 to see if space would change their eating habits. They found the animals followed the lead of human astronauts – they grew tired and lost their appetites. The monkeys were the latest in a line of simians to head into orbit, including this monkey, called Baker, who was aboard a Jupiter rocket in 1959

In June 1991, Columbia carried 2,478 jellyfish polyps into space. They successfully grew into the next life stage – ephyrae – and could swim around small vials of seawater and could tell up from down. Jellyfish raised on Earth cannot tell up from down

Sea urchin sperm were aboard Atlantis in 1997 to find out how fast sperm can swim in zero gravity – they can swim a lot faster in space than on Earth

Four medaka fish were sent into orbit aboard Columbia in July 1994 to see if the vertebrates would mate in sapce. They did and gave birth to dozens of healthy baby fish

A 1998 Columbia flight showed that rats born in microgravity have no sense of up and down. However, rats with broken bones heal at a slower rate and their skeletal muscles shrink in low gravity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.