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SpaceX successfully launches squid and tardigrades to ISS for NASA



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Baby squid doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo is going to the ISS.

Jamie S. Foster, University of Florida

SpaceX has a special delivery en route to the International Space Station. A Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft had a perfect launch Thursday for the company’s 22nd commercial resupply mission for NASA.

The Falcon 9’s first stage landed on a SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean and will be reused for a future mission. The Dragon capsule is now in orbit and will meet the ISS around 2 a.m. PT Saturday.

There are no people aboard the Dragon capsule, but there are glow-in-the-dark baby squids and small tardigrades, which can survive under extreme conditions. Scientists will study the tardigrades, also known as water bears, to see how they survive and reproduce on the ISS.

The young bobtail squid is part of an investigation into symbiotic relationships between the animals and microbes. Scientists are curious how space travel will affect the relationship.

NASA TV and SpaceX broadcast live coverage of the launch on Thursday, with the launch on time at 10:29 a.m. PT. SpaceX tweeted videos of the dramatic launch and the first stage of the boost landing.

The critters on Dragon are just a small part of the 7,300 pounds (3,300 kilograms) of supplies, research equipment and hardware that are headed to the ISS.

Another standout item on board is the ISS Roll-out Solar Array (aka iROSA), innovative solar panels designed by Redwire that roll out like a red carpet. NASA tested the idea earlier in 2017 and it is now ready to be part of the ISS power system. SpaceX will provide the first pair of arrays, with more to follow.

SpaceX is in the process of transferring both cargo and people to the ISS as a commercial partner of NASA. There is a lot of new SpaceX equipment on the CRS-22 flight, including a new Falcon 9 rocket booster and a new cargo spacecraft.

The Cargo Dragon will remain in the ISS for about a month before returning to Earth with a load of science experiments and hardware.

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