'Space Ark' Returns, With Lots of Dead Animals
Few mice survive month in orbit aboard Russian capsule
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2013 3:02 AM CDT
A Russian Proton booster rocket blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – The first Russian critter on Mars likely won't be a mouse, if the results of a month-long "space ark" mission are anything to go by. A capsule containing 45 mice, along with eight gerbils, 15 newts, crayfish, snails, and other small animals, landed yesterday with more than half the mice and all of the gerbils dead after a month spent 357 miles above the Earth, the AP reports. The fate of the newts is a bit unclear, with the AP reporting that all 15 "lizards" survived, and Space Reporter noting most newts died.

The deaths weren't all due to the ravages of space; some were the result of equipment failure, scientists tell PhysOrg. "This is the first time that animals have been put in space on their own for so long," a researcher says, adding that despite the casualties, enough of the rodents survived for the study into the effects of weightlessness on cell structure to be completed. The animal test is expected to provide scientists with vital information on how humans might fare on a voyage to Mars.

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May 20, 2013 5:58 PM CDT
Don't worry people start traveling in space rats will find a way to tag along just as they did over centuries. I see a Mars colony with a rat problem in the future.
May 20, 2013 1:14 PM CDT
I bet seeing a mouse in space is the cutest sight. They can breed a new species, cosmomice!
May 20, 2013 7:53 AM CDT
This fascination with sending a person to Mars makes no sense. It would probably be easier, cheaper, safer and healthier to try and build a colony in open space than on Mars.