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3 Oct, 2007 00:56

'Noah’s Ark' back on Earth from space

A live cargo of mice, lizards, snails and cockroaches that were sent into orbit for scientific research, spent 12 days in zero gravity and has now returned to Earth.

They were tested on board the Foton M3 capsule to see how they reacted to space.

Five geckos spent the 12 days in orbit. Just seconds after entering zero gravity, they panicked, then they started hugging each other. Scientists can now conclude they adjusted well to the experience.

The capsule hosted 26 different experiments on various bacteria, bone cells, lizards and mice.

Fifty scientists gathered to collect their precious cargo in the middle of the fields in Northern Kazakhstan where the capsule landed.

Most were looking to find out if, and how, different living organisms survive in space.

Some wondered if any forms of life could travel independently, without a space craft. The European Space Agency placed a porous stone with living moss on the outside of the capsule to find out if it could survive through solar radiation and extreme temperatures.

The Germans sent newborn fish. The Canadians sent bone cells, and the Russians sent geckos, tritons, and gerbils…

Once they all reached their home laboratories around the globe, research began.

Just hours after the mice and geckos landed in Moscow, they all were euthanized for further tests

“We will have the first group of the results from the primary analysis at the end of November” said Vyacheslav Ilyin, Moscow Institute of Microbiological Problems scientist

Russian middle school students have also sent silkworms into space as part of their biology class curriculum, to find out if their experiments resulted in space silk.

It's been half-a-century since humans sent their first satellite into space. After the launch of Sputnik, many species, including Humans, have traveled beyond the Earth’s orbit.

But scientists say the Foton satellites provide a unique platform for their experiments – experiments that could change the way humans and the rest of life coexist in space.