Unraveling the Mysteries of Zero Gravity: A Look at the Bizarre and Educational Space Experiments
1. The Cosmic Slime Experiment
In a unique experiment, astronauts aboard the International Space Station were "slimed" in 2020. Nickelodeon dispatched approximately two liters of their famous slime to the space station. The purpose? To study how a non-Newtonian fluid like slime behaves in the absence of gravity. The findings from this experiment could revolutionize how liquids are managed in space, impacting everything from plant watering to life support systems on deep space missions.
2. Tissue Chips in Orbit
Launched into space in 2018, tissue chips are intricate bioengineered devices containing human cells. These chips mimic the structure and function of human organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys. This experiment aimed to understand the impact of microgravity on the human body, particularly how drugs and diseases might behave differently in space, with implications for long-term space travel health management.
3. Jellyfish: The Zero-Gravity Subjects
Since the early 1990s, scientists have sent jellyfish into space to study the effects of weightlessness on their development. The first mission in 1991 sent over 2,000 jellyfish into orbit. By the mission's end, there were over 60,000 jellyfish in space! These space jellies struggled to adapt to normal gravity upon their return to Earth, experiencing extreme vertigo - a significant finding for understanding how living organisms adjust to different gravitational environments.
4. Salmonella in Space
In 2007, a sample of salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning, was sent into space. This experiment conducted by Arizona State University researchers aimed to study how bacteria respond to zero-gravity. Alarmingly, salmonella became more virulent in the space environment. This discovery raises critical concerns for the health and safety of future space colonies.
5. Tardigrades: The Indestructible Space Travelers
Tardigrades, tiny creatures known for their resilience, were sent into space in 2007. These microscopic organisms can withstand extreme conditions like high radiation levels and severe temperatures. Remarkably, the tardigrades returned from space unscathed, making them the first animals to survive the open space environment. This experiment provides valuable insights into the survivability of life forms in extreme conditions.