Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why did the Russians send geckos into space?” you ask? Good question . . . timely too. (It sure beats answering the question: “Why does that attractive woman on Craig’s List say she is ‘fully functional’ and ‘versatile’?”)
For those of you who missed the news story here on American Live Wire the Russian Federal Space Agency and the manufacturer of the Foton M4 spacecraft launched a number of animals, insects, and living things—including geckos– into orbit on July 18 for a Russian/German research mission. Unfortunately, upon return of the satellite it was discovered that the geckos died in space due to a problem with the thermal control system. This underlined the question: “Why did the Russians send geckos into space?”
NBCNews and other online sources confirmed the geckos weren’t rocketed into the new frontier to produce “kinky gecko-sex videos” in zero gravity. They were sent there so that scientists could learn about the issues that humans might encounter during space travel.
Ruth Globus, rodent research project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center told the press: “Reproduction in space is a long-term goal that people would want to meet. Even if people were to say, ‘We don’t care about the long term, we only care about now,’ it’s important to understand what’s happening to the ovaries and the testes (in space) and the subsequent changes that may occur.”
The geckos in the satellite (one male and four females) were part of the research project. As noted above, other organisms were sent into orbit in order to examine how they propagated without gravity.
Globus explained: “We use animals because we can understand processes and adaptations to the space environment that we can’t really study in humans. Whether it’s a rodent, a gecko or other organism, the aim is to understand how those organisms respond to the space environment.”
Former NASA physician James Logan said that scientists need to focus more “on how the space environment affects reproduction and development.” He told NBC News: “To my knowledge, they have never taken what I would call a fairly advanced mammal and gone from the first generation all the way through fertilization, gestation, birth, maturation and the reproductive cycle to the next generation.”
He pointed out that if man is ever to settle “on Mars, where the force of gravity is only 38 percent of Earth’s, it’s important to know if a low-gravity environment would result in sterility or worse.” We need to know if humans can reproduce in space.
Why did the Russians send geckos into space? Now you know.
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