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How tiny worms could help us colonize Mars

The microscopic C. elegans roundworm has grown and reproduced aboard the International Space Station. The space-hardened animals could help us understand the biological effects of living in deep-space and on other planets.  

C. elegans worms undergo examination by project scientists. The worms were flown to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavour during the STS-134 mission in May 2011.

NASA

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Humanity's quest to colonize Mars could receive a big boost from some tiny worms, a new study suggests.

Scientists tracked the development and reproduction of the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans through 12 generations on the International Space Station. Studying these space-hardened worms could help humans deal with the rigors and risks of the long trip to Mars, researchers said.

"We have been able to show that worms can grow and reproduce in space for long enough to reach another planet, and that we can remotely monitor their health," study lead author Nathaniel Szewczyk, of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.

"As a result, C. elegans is a cost-effective option for discovering and studying the biological effects of deep space missions," Szewczyk added. "Ultimately, we are now in a position to be able to remotely grow and study an animal on another planet." 

Worms on the space station

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