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NASA's new rodent residence elevates research to greater heights
Date:5/23/2014

rior experience with spaceflight rodent studies. Scientists and engineers at Ames developed the new system for the space station based on the Animal Enclosure Module that flew aboard 27 space shuttle missions between 1983 and 2011 and supported studies ranging from four to 18 days.

Two short-duration studies recently conducted using the prior generation system include Mouse Immunology, a study of T-cell immune system function that flew aboard space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission in 2010, and Mouse Immunology-2, a study of immune response to respiratory viral infection that also flew aboard Discovery during the STS-133 mission in 2011. Through a biospecimen sharing program, these two flight missions supported 17 separate investigations of spaceflight effects on multiple organ systems, in addition to the two primary studies of immune function.

Each rodent study aboard the space station will use a set of reusable modules. A transporter module will carry rodents to the station aboard an uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. After docking to the station, astronauts will use an access module to transfer rodents from the transporter into one or more habitat modules. The habitats operate in an EXPRESS rack facility aboard the station. Crew members will use the access module to examine the rodents closely during the study and to transfer them between habitats as needed.

Each habitat module provides as many as 10 mice or six rats with all of the basics they need to live comfortably aboard the station including water, food, lighting and fresh air. Rodents easily can move around the living space by grasping grids that line the floor and walls. The modules include data downlink capability that enables monitoring of environmental conditions such as temperature. A visible light and infrared video system allows the crew in space and scientists and veterinarians on the ground to monitor behavior and overall health of the rodents on a daily basis.

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Contact: Laura Niles
Laura.E.Niles@nasa.gov
281-244-7069
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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