NASA sends luminescent baby squids and tardigrades into space

This Thursday, June 3, NASA will send baby squids and tardigrades aboard the ISS for scientific experiments that will improve living conditions in space. SpaceX’s resupply mission will take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In collaboration with

Thomas Pesquet


Thomas Pesquet was born in Rouen on February 27, 1978, he is the French astronaut …

SpaceX is planning its 22e resupply mission this Thursday June 3 at 1:29 p.m. EST (7:29 p.m. CEST). It will leave the Kennedy Space Center and bring supplies: some 5,000 tardigrades and 128 squid Bobtail as part of research experiments.

Their goal will be to observe their tolerance to the space environment and how the lack of gravity affects the symbiotic relationships between microbes and their host.

Studying the resistance of tardigrades in space

Tardigrades, or water bears, are hyper-resistant microscopic beings that we meet everywhere. Nothing scares them: they survive radiation thousands of times greater than us, pressures equivalent to six times those of the depths of the ocean. They don’t have a problem with the temperature either, whether it’s -200 ºC or +150 ºC, they get by.

They even survived extended periods of time in unprotected space when, if unfortunately, the same thing happened to us, all the way we did. lungs would come out eardrums and the capillaries would break, the blood would boil and theADN would be destroyed. Its incredible abilities make the animal a popular subject of study.

The goal of NASA’s experiments will be to examine the adaptation processes of tardigrades to life in orbit, and thus better understand the constraints that humans face in order to better counter them. Study their molecular biology over the short and long term (over several generations) will allow us to understand the mechanisms genetics who are behind this adaptation to stress. For example, if researchers find that tardigrades produce a lot ofantioxidants, this will mean that more must be integrated into the astronaut diet for their health.

To study the effects of microgravity on the symbiotic relationship between beneficial microbes and squid

Some bacteria are necessary for a healthy digestive and immune system, including the gut microbiote. The study Umami (Understanding Microgravity on Animal Microbe Interactions) aims to better understand the effects of space travel on chemical and molecular interactions between microbes and their hosts, and will use Bobtail squid for this purpose, or Euprymna scolopes.

These are the perfect models because they have a special light organ inside the body that can be colonized by a species luminescent bacteria, Vibrio fischeri, thanks to which they glow in the dark. The fact that it is a single species of microbe in a single type of tissue simplifies the monitoring of the evolution of the symbiosis. In addition, their immune system is similar to that of humans.

Understand how the microbiome change in space will ensure the protection of the health of astronauts, but also to make discoveries that we could take advantage of on Earth for our well-being.

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