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A squid ahead of its flight to space. Photo: NASA/Isaac Watson

Squids and tardigrades are now safely ensconced on the International Space Station after their flight to space this weekend.

Why it matters: The tiny creatures will be used for experiments that could help scientists learn more about how various organisms might behave in space.

What's happening: SpaceX flew the experiments and other cargo to the space station using a Dragon cargo craft that docked to the orbiting laboratory Saturday.

  • Scientists behind the squid experiment are planning to study if the relationship between bobtail squid and a certain bacteria that colonize a special organ of the creature may change in microgravity.
  • The researchers hope to use the data to learn more about how human health might be affected during long trips in space.
  • The tardigrade experimenters aim to learn more about how the creatures can survive in the extreme environment through generations.
  • “We want to see what ‘tricks’ they use to survive when they arrive in space, and, over time, what tricks their offspring are using,” Thomas Boothby, principal investigator of the experiment, said in a statement. “Are they the same or do they change across generations? We just don’t know what to expect.”

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 2, 2021 - Science

Private companies are changing who gets to go to space

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Private missions to orbit like the all-civilian Inspiration4 launching later this month are opening access to space to people who historically haven't gone there.

Why it matters: Fewer than 600 people have flown to space, and most of them have been white men. But with the rise of commercial spaceflight that's expected to change.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 31, 2021 - Science

A mission to space like no other

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The launch next month of the first all-civilian mission to orbit is an ambitious test for a burgeoning space industry's futuristic dream of sending many more ordinary people to space in the next few years.

Why it matters: Companies and nations envision millions of people living and working in space without having to become professional, government-backed astronauts. Those hopes are riding on SpaceX's next crewed mission, called Inspiration4.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 16, 2021 - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 launches on 3-day mission in orbit

A screenshot of the rocket launching. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX's all-civilian Inspiration4 mission made history Wednesday night when it launched into orbit.

Why it matters: It's the first time a crew of amateurs has launched to orbit without a professional astronaut onboard. The mission also signals the start of a new era in space — one defined by an industry pushing to launch many more private people to orbit in the coming years.