Animal advocates were outraged when Russia announced they were sending mice, lizards, fish and other species to space for a 30 day mission. Now, the journey is over and the animals are back on earth, but not all of them made it. And even worse than that, the ones who did come back alive will be killed as part of the research.
Out of the 53 mice that Russia sent into space, less than half came back alive. No details have been released on how the mice died. According to the AP, Vladimir Sychov, deputy director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, said that this was to be expected. Sychov noted on Russian television, ”This is the first time that animals have flown in space for so long on their own.” The research was designed to better help scientists understand the impacts of space travel (such as weightlessness) on cell structure.
Nicole Rayl, project manager for NASA’s portion of the mission, had said before the launch that in order to gather the data from the animals upon their return, they would need to be “humanely euthanized.” What we’d like to know is what caused the mice to perish while traveling 575 kilometers above the earth. Food? Stress? Air quality? Something else? Did they suffer? The only small consolation for the returning animals is that their death will likely be quick and relatively painless. We doubt information will be released on why many of the mice in particular didn’t make make it. The lizards all came back alive. (Again, their survival will sadly be short lived.) We just hope this is the last time any animal that didn’t dream of growing up to be an astronaut gets sent up to space.
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