128 squid and nearly 5,000 tardigrades left Earth in early June aboard Space X, the International Space Station’s (ISS) refueling shuttle. Thomas Pesquet and his fellow astronauts have collected these charming little animals for numerous experiments.
The first is to measure the effects of space and weightlessness on the microbes that colonize humans and animals. The astronauts exposed some of these tiny squids to the bacteria and then froze the entire colony. When they return to Earth, the squid will be thawed for analysis. An essential experience for men, and especially for astronauts, as microbes are supposed to keep the digestive and immune systems healthy, and spaceflight has an effect on these microbes. In any way ? That is the whole point of this search for squid. When they know more, scientists can develop techniques to protect the health of astronauts on long space missions.
Tardigrades are an incredible creature that measures less than a millimeter and lives in water. It looks like a small mole with six legs. It is the most resistant animal in the world, can be immersed in liquid helium at -272°C or heated to more than 150°C, and can be completely dehydrated and come back to life with a single drop of water after 30 years.
The astronauts will try to figure out the genes that allow them to survive these harsh conditions. If they discover the tricks of these tardigrades, they can pass them on to the man to improve his living conditions. This leap into space is not the first for these small animals since they were in 2019 in the Israeli probe that crashed on the surface of the moon. Some scientists believe they are still alive!