Story at a glance:

  • A dozen baby squid will be launched in space to research how long humans can remain healthy in space.
  • The way an astronaut adjusts their body to low gravity in space is similar to a squid’s symbiotic relationship with natural bacteria.
  • The experiment will see if the squid can adjust their bodies in space better than human astronauts, whose immune systems grow weaker over time.

One dozen bobtail squid that were raised at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii boarded the International Space Station after catching a ride from a SpaceX resupply mission, according to The Guardian.


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The space mission is part of University of Hawaii doctoral student Jamie Foster’s research on the effects of spaceflight on squid, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reportedto help determine how long humans can remain healthy in space. 

“As astronauts spend more and more time in space, their immune systems become what’s called dysregulated. It doesn’t function as well,” Foster told the Guardian. “Their immune systems don’t recognize bacteria as easily. They sometimes get sick.”

The way an astronaut adjusts their body to low gravity in space is similar to the squid’s symbiotic relationship with natural bacteria to manage the deep sea creature’s emission of light. 

“We have found that the symbiosis of humans with their microbes is perturbed in microgravity, and Jamie has shown that is true in squid,”Margaret McFall-Ngai, a University of Hawaii professor who taught Foster, told the Guardian. “And, because it’s a simple system, she can get to the bottom of what’s going wrong.”


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A professor at the University of Florida​, Foster studies the interactions between microbial communities and their environments to better understand the molecular mechanisms that microbes use to adapt and respond to changes in the environment.

“There are aspects of the immune system that just don’t work properly under long-duration spaceflights,” she told the Guardian. “If humans want to spend time on the moon or Mars, we have to solve health problems to get them there safely.”


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Published on Jun 23, 2021