New Space.com article:

First Monarch Butterflies in Space Take Flight

The first-ever Monarch butterflies in space have taken flight on the International Space Station to the delight of astronauts aboard.

Space station commander Jeff Williams, of NASA, beamed video of the first of several Monarch butterflies fluttered its gossamer wings in weightlessness last week, just after the insect emerged from its cocoon and began floating around their enclosure.

“It is beautiful,” Williams radioed Mission Control. “It’s always beautiful to see a little bit of Earth up here.”

Video of the Butterfly in action:

It’s curious, isn’t it? This is all a follow up to a series of tests they’ve been conducting, regarding biological matter and reproduction in space.

In some cases, we’re reaping the harvest already:

Barley+Space=Space Beer!
By Betsy Mason|December 8, 2009|4:42pm

“This beer will be sold for charity, to contribute to the promotion of science education for children and the development of space science research in Japan and Russia, through donation of all proceeds to Okayama University,” Sapporo stated in a press release Dec. 3.

And that sounds nice. But I think the real reason is: Space Beer!

Also, what will astronauts drink on future extended spaceflight missions? They can’t take multiple years’ worth of beer with them, so clearly they will have to brew it themselves. But what about the hops, you say? Don’t worry, those were launched into space in August. Super Space Beer!

The butterflies were an interesting experiment, and it wasn’t the only one conducted.

Among the different kind of tests are the following, by latest publication:

Spider Success! Weightless Webs Spun in Space
By Tariq Malik | 21 November 2008 | 1:03 pm ET

Two plucky spiders on the International Space Station have bounced back from a tangled false start to weave amazing new webs in zero gravity, astronauts said Friday.

The orb-weaving spiders were transported to the station aboard NASA’s shuttle Endeavour earlier this week, but initially wove an aimless concoction in their lab enclosure during their first days in weightlessness.

But now they’ve taken another stab at weightless web construction.

“We noticed the spiders’ made a symmetrical web,” the space station’s current skipper Michael Fincke radioed to Mission Control today. “It looks beautiful.”

You might recall my earlier blog posting about this one:

Astronaut-Teacher to Fly Seeds for Students on June Shuttle
By Robert Z. Pearlman | 19 January 2007 | 7:03 p.m. ET

When educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan launches to the space station this June, she hopes to ‘plant the seed’ that will start students thinking about their own futures in space.


In addition to Morgan and her six STS-118 crewmates, space shuttle Endeavour will have on-board millions of basil seeds, which will be distributed after the mission to children in kindergarten through high school working to develop their own designs for Moon- or Mars-based plant growth chambers.

“We know they will be excited about having the seeds, something physical that has been in space that they can touch and grow,” Morgan told collectSPACE.com during an educational event held Friday at Space Center Houston [image].

Of course, there was the source of all the barley and wheat for Sapporo’s “space beer”:

Space seeds come back to Earth
by Carmelo Amalfi | Thursday, 14 December 2006

PERTH: Plant seeds have been blasted into orbit in the hope that ‘space breeding’ holds the key to improving crop yields and disease resistance.

Wheat and barley strains developed by the Department of Agriculture and Food in Western Australia (WA) have just landed back on Earth following a 15-day orbital cruise on board China’s Shijian-8 satellite.

“Space-breeding refers to the technique of sending seeds into space in a recoverable spacecraft or a high-altitude balloon,” said Agriculture WA barley breeder Chengdao Li. “In the high-vacuum, micro-gravity and strong-radiation space environment, seeds may undergo mutation.”

So the spin of it all is this, in all seriousness: We are Bound for Living in Space

Between the ISS missions, the studies conducted on various lifeforms in the space environment, the radiation studies, living condition experiments, the aforementioned food and lifeform growth and reproduction tests, and now the use of corporate investment for an open space program [I.E. Google Lunar X Prize] – we’re nearing our next manned mission, and most likely to forge a living base on the Moon, or Mars.

The only serious block right now, that hasn’t been fully understood, is our strange bone-density loss problem.

See, when we leave Earth, our bones just start to disintegrate fast:

The Zero G Battle: How Astronauts and Cosmonauts Cope
By Karen Miller | 01:03 pm ET | 31 August 2001

Bone recovery, though, has proven problematic. For a three to six month space flight, says Schneider, it might require two to three years to regain lost bone — if it’s going to come back, and some studies have suggested that it doesn’t. “You really have to exercise a lot,” says Schneider. “You really have to work at it.”

According to Dr. Alan Hargens, recently of NASA Ames and now a professor of orthopedics at the University of California San Diego medical school, it is important to keep astronauts in good physical condition. “You want the crew members to function normally when they come back to Earth … and not have to lie around for long periods of rehabilitation,” he says.

And Earth isn’t the only planet that astronauts might visit. One day humans will journey to Mars — a six-month trip in zero-G before they disembark on a planet with 38 percent of Earth’s gravity. “[We'll have to maintain] those astronauts at a fairly high level of fitness,” explains Hargens. “When they get to Mars, there won’t be anyone to help them if they get into trouble.” They will need to be able to handle everything themselves.

Solve that, and we’ll be reaching the stars soon enough.

2 Responses to “Butterflies in Space, and more…”

  1. jd webb

    Great read, thanks for putting it up.

  2. Shawn Q.

    Oh, sure thing :)

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