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Mice, Newts, Lizards Return from Month Long Space Flight, Many Died

Update Date: May 19, 2013 03:51 PM EDT
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A number of mice and eight gerbils have done what many of us have wished to do, spend a month in space. A Russian capsule with the purpose of investigating how well organisms can withstand extended flights, scientists said Sunday as the month-long mission landed back down on Earth.

Less than half of the 53 mice and other rodents who blasted off on April 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome survived the flight, Russian news agencies reported.

Scientists say the experiment is intended to test the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure, according to NASA. The Bion-M craft carried mice, newts, lizards, snails, gerbils, some plants and other microflora landed

"This is the first time that animals have been put in space on their own for so long," said Vladimir Sychov of the Russian Academy of Sciences' institute of medical and biological research.

But at the end of the experiment, "less than half of the mice made it-but that was to be expected," Sychov told Russian news agencies.

"Unfortunately, because of equipment failure, we lost all the gerbils."

Sychov noted this was to be expected and the surviving mice were sufficient to complete the study, which was designed to show the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure. The capsule also carried small crayfish and fish. All 15 of the lizards survived, he added.

"This is the first time that animals have flown in space for so long on their own," Sychov said in the television broadcast from the landing site. The last research craft to carry animals into space spent 12 days in orbit in 2007.

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