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Snails Go Into Orbit

Snails Go Into Orbit

By Emma Norman

50 snails, a selection of comedy DVDs and some magazines have been fired into space from Kazakhstan. No this is not a delayed April Fool’s joke and no, they’re not the world’s first NASA trained snails.

This bizarre cargo, aboard the unmanned (but well-mollusced) Progress 25 spacecraft, was launched on Friday to provide supplies to Russian and American astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS). The crew have been chilling out at the ISS since December and, it seems, are a touch bored.

However, the crew haven’t been allowed to choose their favourite films; the DVDs were recommended by experts from the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems. Magazines were also carefully selected - by the psychological support team no less.

But what exactly is the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems? Or the psychological support team for that matter? And who assigned them the authority for determining what is medically, biologically and psychologically beneficial leisure reading/viewing material? I just don't know. Although, if they’re looking for test guinea pigs they can sign me right up.

And the snails – just brought along to enjoy the view? No such luck. They’re experimental snails; propelled into space so that scientists can study their tissue regeneration at zero gravity.

To be honest, if I were on ISS I’d be a bit concerned. If no one thought to provide the crew with some entertainment for their six-month stay then what else might they have forgotten? Did anyone remember to pack the loo roll?

More great sciencey stuff from Emma here.

And if you thought that was good, try this:

- News - Space girls get astro-naughty

- Spoof - Cats tracked via satellite
- Strange - Locusts and Star Wars
- Straight - Death by Milky Way

Image: bert8k/NASA

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21 Jan 2010
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