If humans ever manage to colonize Mars or some other far-flung planet, a tiny roundworm may show the way. Scientists sent 4,000 worms (C. elegans for the science-minded) up to the International Space Station, where they managed to not only survive but produce 12 new generations over three months, reports Discovery News. The worms share genetic traits with humans, and the experiment could shed light on how multiple generations of people might survive the rigors of life in space—specifically the ill effects of weightlessness on muscles and the heart, notes the BBC.
"We have been able to show that worms can grow and reproduce in space for long enough to reach another planet, and that we can remotely monitor their health," says the study's lead researcher, according to Space.com. "Ultimately, we are now in a position to be able to remotely grow and study an animal on another planet." (Read more space exploration stories.)