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SpaceX launches Falcon 9 to ISS with water bears, squid and other experiments

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket Thursday afternoon from Kennedy Space Center for a cargo resupply mission along with 7,300 pounds worth of science experiments.

The rocket lifted off at 1:29 p.m. from KSC’s Launch Pad 39-A. The company was using a new first-stage booster that successfully landed on the company’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.

This was SpaceX’s 22nd resupply mission to the International Space Station. The space-venturing company is sending up the cargo with its Dragon spacecraft containing crucial experiments such as squid.

Yup, cephalopods are heading into space (and thankfully not arriving from it.)

NASA is sending 128 baby glow-in-the-dark bobtail squid as part of an experiment to help researchers know the effects of spaceflight on interactions between helpful microbes and their animal hosts.

But they aren’t the only lifeforms headed to the ISS. NASA is also sending up 5,000 tardigrades, also known as water bears. Tardigrades are microscopic creatures seen alongside Scott Lang’s microverse adventures in Marvel’s “Ant-Man.” The water bear is intriguing to scientists for its tough make-up being able to survive in unbearably hot and cold environments as well as low-pressure areas and even the vacuum of space, according to the Smithsonian. NASA scientists want to use the water bears to observe stress factors and how those factors could affect humans.

Not all the experiments involve tiny life forms, however, NASA is also sending a cotton root system, which will be studied in microgravity helping scientists to see how they might be able use less water and pesticide.

SpaceX is also transporting equipment for the remote use of robotic arms and space vehicles to help advance ISS operations, NASA stated.

Additionally, Dragon is taking up a 3D kidney cell model to investigate the formation of microcrystals that lead to kidney stones, and it’s bringing new solar arrays capable of rolling-up — the innovation should increase available energy for the station’s operations.

Dragon is expected to arrive at the ISS at 5 a.m. on June 5.


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