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Space station delivery includes worms and mice

AP and Harry Pettit, December 9, 2019 6:45PM Kids News

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A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US on December 5, 2019 with worms, mice and an emotion-sensing robot on board. Picture: AP media_cameraA Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US on December 5, 2019 with worms, mice and an emotion-sensing robot on board. Picture: AP

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SpaceX has made an early Christmas delivery to the International Space Station, bringing muscley “mighty mice,” pest-killing worms and a robot that can sense how the astronauts are feeling.

The station commander, Italy’s Luca Parmitano, used a large robot arm to grab onto the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft three days after its launch from Cape Canaveral, US. The two spacecraft soared 420km above the South Pacific Ocean at the time.

“Whenever we welcome a new vehicle on board, we take on board also a little bit of the soul of everybody that contributed to the project, so welcome on board,” Parmitano told Mission Control.

It marks the third visit for this Dragon. Flight controllers quickly secured the capsule to the space station, before the hatch opened and unloading began.

media_cameraThe SpaceX Dragon capsule arrives at the International Space Station on Sunday, December 8, 2019. Picture: NASA via AP

The capsule held 2720kg of supplies, including 40 mice for a muscle and bone experiment. Eight of them are genetically engineered* with twice the normal muscle mass — and so are considered “mighty mice.”

There are also 120,000 roundworms, or nematodes, of a beneficial* variety that are part of an agricultural study aimed at controlling pests here on Earth.

The capsule also has a large, round robot head with artificial intelligence and the ability to sense astronauts’ emotions. Named Cimon, it’s an improved version of what flew up last year to be tested as an astronaut’s helper.

NASA has tucked some Christmas presents in the shipment for the station’s six-person crew as well.

It’s SpaceX’s 19th delivery to the orbiting outpost for NASA over the past seven years.

Another shipment — this one launched by Russia from Kazakhstan on Friday – is due to arrive on Monday night Australian time.

VIEWS FROM SPACE
Many astronauts who work on the International Space Station take their cameras with them and take amazing photos.

We’ve picked some of the best views of Earth, from violent volcanic eruptions to mega-storms. Which one do you like best?

Astronauts work outside the International Space Station with New Zealand and the Cook Strait in the Pacific Ocean in the background. Picture: NASA media_cameraAstronauts work outside the International Space Station with New Zealand and the Cook Strait in the Pacific Ocean in the background. Picture: NASA
Astronaut Scott Kelly snapped this incredible shot of Australia. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraAstronaut Scott Kelly snapped this incredible shot of Australia. Picture: Johnson Space Center
Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy takes a break during a six-hour spacewalk to help with assembly and maintenance on the International Space Station in 2013. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraRussian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy takes a break during a six-hour space walk to help with maintenance on the International Space Station in 2013. Picture: Johnson Space Center
Thunderstorms roll over the South China Sea, July 29, 2016. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraThunderstorms roll over the South China Sea, July 29, 2016. Picture: Johnson Space Center
The lights of Japan below the ISS, captured by astronaut Scott Kelly in 2015. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraThe lights of Japan below the ISS, captured by astronaut Scott Kelly in 2015. Picture: Johnson Space Center
Hurricane Dorian snapped from the ISS in September 2019. The storm struck the Bahamas and the southern states of the US. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraHurricane Dorian, September 2019. The storm struck the Bahamas and the southern states of the US. Picture: Johnson Space Center
The Mediterranean coast of France pictured in March 2016. Pcture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraThe Mediterranean coast of France pictured in March 2016. Picture: Johnson Space Center
Tunisia’s second city and major port of Sfax, June 19, 2015. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraTunisia’s second city and major port of Sfax, June 19, 2015. Picture: Johnson Space Center
In February 2014, this photo of the deserts of central Iran revealed an unusual geological pattern. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraIn February 2014, this photo of the deserts of central Iran revealed an unusual geological pattern. Picture: Johnson Space Center
The west coast of southern Africa, April 2019. Picture: NASA media_cameraThe west coast of southern Africa, April 2019. Picture: NASA
A glaciated area at the headwaters of the Rio de la Colonia in southern Chile, December 2000. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraA glaciated area at the headwaters of the Rio de la Colonia in southern Chile, December 2000. Picture: Johnson Space Center
The Northern Lights from the ISS. Picture: NASA media_cameraThe Northern Lights, also called aurora borealis. Picture: NASA
Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, snapped in 2016. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraLake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, US, snapped in 2016. Picture: Johnson Space Center
The lights of Paris, France, April 2015. Picture: Johnson Space Center media_cameraThe lights of Paris, France, April 2015. Picture: Johnson Space Center

GLOSSARY

  • genetically engineered: genes are changed to alter how it grows or functions
  • beneficial: does good things; has benefits

EXTRA READING

Astronauts’ blood flows backwards in space

Baking choc-chip cookies in space

Astronauts feast for Christmas in zero gravity

QUICK QUIZ

  1. Where was the ISS when the Dragon capsule arrived?
  2. Why have mice with big muscles been sent?
  3. Why have worms been sent to space?
  4. How many times has SpaceX made deliveries to the ISS?
  5. Where were the astronauts when they took these photos?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Create a Space First-Aid Kit

What Christmas presents would you give to an astronaut on the International Space Station? List two presents you think an astronaut who has been up in space for months would really love. Then, imagine that you are the astronaut who received your presents. Write a thankyou letter explaining why it is such a great present for you.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Why do you think it is important to have technology that can sense astronaut’s emotions? Write down as many reasons and uses for this information that you can think of.

Time: allow at least 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Syl-la-ble Sleuth

A good way to find a syllable is to clap as you speak.

Search through the text. Make a list of all the adjectives you can find. Classify them into the number of syllables each word has.

For example: 2 syllables, 3 syllables, 4 syllables, 5 or more syllables.

Longer doesn’t mean better!

HAVE YOUR SAY: If you were an astronaut, what would you like sent up to the International Space Station? Which is your favourite photo?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in space