One Giant Leap for Insectkind

Fruit flies help scientists study the effects of life on a spaceship

08-01-2006 // Hannah Schardt

WHEN SEVEN astronauts blasted off in July on the shuttle Discovery, they were accompanied by about 150 tiny research assistants: fruit flies, sent along to help study the effects of zero gravity on living creatures. The workaholic of the insect world, Drosophila melanogaste has a lifespan of about 60 days and reaches maturity just 10 days after hatching, making it a perfect subject for scientific research.

As for the fruit flies' out-of-this world trip, NASA scientists hope that they will give insights into the effects of zero-gravity on the human immune system. Their brief lives mean that even a short trip to space--Discovery was away from Earth for just 13 days--could affect their bodies in ways equivalent to a human journey of months or even years. Studying those effects could help predict how astronauts might fare in a 2- to 3-year mission to Mars or the moon.

     Flickr Icon           Find NWF on Facebook.           Follow NWF on Twitter.           YouTube Icon    
Certify your yard today!
Happy Campers Protect Wildlife! Pledge to Campout today!