NASA has a housing development in the works to provide living quarters for groups of mice and rats in the prime real estate aboard the International Space Station. NASA's Rodent Research Facility, developed by scientists and engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, is a new hardware system to carry rodents safely from Earth to the orbiting laboratory and provide long-term accommodation aboard the station. The rodent research system enables researchers to study the long-term effects of microgravity--or weightlessness--on mammalian physiology.
Microgravity has negative effects on most body tissues. Biomedical research conducted in space is essential for us to gain a better understanding of the health risks of long-duration spaceflight and to develop ways to mitigate those risks.
Astronauts currently spend six months at a time living in a weightless environment aboard the space station. Mission planners anticipate future missions to Mars will last two years or more and will expose crews to varying levels of gravity and space radiation. We must know in advance how humans will adjust to these conditions.
Researchers study rodents in space to understand better how microgravity affects various body systems--cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive and sensorimotor--and to discover what cellular, genetic and molecular mechanisms are responsible for spaceflight-induced changes. Researchers can apply knowledge of these mechanisms to develop ways to prevent or treat adverse effects of spaceflight.
Not only are the results from these studies important for protecting the health of astronauts who will embark upon long-term exploration missions, but they can also help treat disease on Earth. Space station bone and immunology studies are examples of research that is relevant to human health in space and on Earth, as spaceflight-induced changes in bones and the immune system resem
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center