NASA designs high-tech cages to transport rats to ISS
The US space agency has developed high-tech cages to transport rodents from Earth to the International Space Station (ISS) to enable researchers to study the long-term effects of microgravity on mammalian Physiology. These Rodent Habitat modules will first fly in August 2014 aboard an unmanned SpaceX Dragon cargo ship.
The newly designed habitats allow carrying the animals to the space station as well as provide for their long-term accommodation. Each habitat module accommodates 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. A visible light and infrared video system enables the crew in space and researchers and veterinarians on the ground to monitor behaviour and overall health of the rodents on a daily basis.
Since rodents physiology matches with that of humans and the former develop and age much faster than humans, studying rodent model organisms will speed up the understanding of diseases that may take years or decades to develop in humans. Furthermore, rodents may be studied in space during different developmental stages of life. Spaceflight rodent studies are important for developing countermeasures — procedures, drugs or devices — to protect health during spaceflight.