NASA is launching a large-scale biological experiment on the International Space Station to study the ability of living organisms to survive in extreme conditions. For this, the agency has successfully sent thousands of microscopic organisms into space on SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The launch was broadcast live on NASA's YouTube channel.

The cargo launch with 5,000 tardigrades (commonly known as water bears) and 128 babies of bobtail squids took place on June 3. Scientists plan to study how tardigrades deal with stress in space, as well as how the absence of gravity affects the symbiotic relationship between squid and beneficial microbes.

A NASA cargo ship successfully docked with the International Space Station on June 5. It delivered equipment and materials for dozens of scientific experiments, including thousands of microorganisms.

NASA explains that squid have a human-like immune system. Experiments on them on the ISS can help in the search for means of protecting human health from the effects of prolonged space flights.

Juvenile bobtail squid
Image: Jamie S. Foster/NASA

As for tardigrades, they are known for adapting to the most severe environmental conditions. Scientists want to understand how these animals survive in microgravity and if this can somehow be applied to astronauts. As the scientists explained, the study results will contribute to understanding the factors of stress and help develop ways to eliminate it.

A typical terrestrial tardigrade
Image: Boothby Lab/NASA

This is the twenty-second mission of the US Aerospace Agency to supply the ISS with cargo for scientific research. This is the second time it was delivered by a Falcon 9 rocket developed by Elon Musk's Space X.

The spacecraft also delivered two new IROSA solar panels, thanks to which the station will be able to generate more electricity for its operation. The ISS crew is to install them shortly during the planned two spacewalks.

Among other experiments, astronauts will test the ability to control a robotic arm using virtual reality and the ability to produce durable cotton.