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'A first for fish in space'

Date

James Manning

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The grid structure at the upper side of each Aquatic Habitat captures air in each grid, while preventing water from escaping.

The grid structure at the upper side of each Aquatic Habitat captures air in each grid, while preventing water from escaping.

The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has sent an aquarium to the International Space Station. 

No, this isn't a veiled attempt at turning the ISS into some kind of swanky bachelor pad, but rather an experiment that will study the effects of microgravity on marine life.

Specifically, researchers will examine the impacts of radiation, bone degradation, muscle atrophy and developmental biology over a three-month period. This data may improve understanding of human health in these areas back on Earth.

A specimen chamber housing Medaka fish for study in the Aquatic Habitat.

A specimen chamber housing Medaka fish for study in the Aquatic Habitat.

"We think studies on bone degradation mechanisms and muscle atrophy mechanisms are applicable to human health problems, especially for the ageing society," said Nobuyoshi Fujimoto, associate senior engineer at JAXA.

Scientists will examine small, freshwater fish in orbit, starting with the Medaka fish (Oryzias latipes). Medaka are ideal specimens because they are transparent, which makes light work of observing the workings of their inner organs. They are also quick breeders, allowing the studies to examine different generations of the fish. The animal's genome is already fully sequenced, making it easy to recognises changes in their genes.

The Aquatic Habitat, or AQH, was sent into space on July 20 and will reside in the Japanese Experiment Module, also known as 'Kibo', which is Japanese for 'hope'. While water habitats have been sent into space before, this system features an improved circulation system that monitors water conditions, removes waste and improves oxygen flow.

The habitat also includes temperature control and an automatic feeding system for the fish, while day and night cycles will be simulated by LED lighting. Video cameras will stream vision of the fish back to Earth for further analysis. 

"The special bacteria filter purifies waste materials, such as ammonia, so that we can keep fish for up to 90 days," said Mr Fujimoto. "This capability will make it possible for egg-to-egg breeding aboard station, which means up to three generations may be born in orbit. This would be a first for fish in space." 

If space fish aren't quite cool enough for you, space frogs could be next on the agenda. The air-water interface design of the Aquatic Habitat makes it possible to house amphibious animals too.

9 comments

  • A little bit "Muppets". Pigs in...- oh no, I mean - Fish IN SPACE!!!!!!!!!

    Commenter
    blabbermouth
    Date and time
    July 31, 2012, 1:31PM
    • @blabber mouth, great minds. I just recommended the article on Face book with a big, "FISH IN SPAAAAAACCCCCCCE"

      Commenter
      Muppets Too
      Location
      Dubai
      Date and time
      July 31, 2012, 3:40PM
  • Sounds more like an Austin Powers stunt, send up Mr. Bigglesworth!!!

    Commenter
    SpaceJunk
    Date and time
    July 31, 2012, 2:05PM
    • Would have been more fun if the fish weren't in a tank, but in a suspended spinning ball of water. Now that would be swanky.

      Ahhh, the wonders of non-gravity.

      Commenter
      Kongming
      Date and time
      July 31, 2012, 2:44PM
      • This is an interesting and worthwhile experiment. Do not knock it.
        Calcification of bone is one of the biggest health problems for astronauts.
        I am fascinated how they manage the air/water interface.
        Where can I get one?

        Commenter
        Dr Raymond J. RITCHIE
        Location
        Prince of Songkla University-Phuket & Uni of Sydney
        Date and time
        July 31, 2012, 2:52PM
        • What's the bet, that some astronaut is going to do an experiment on how much better fresh fish fillet tastes than reconstituted food pastes?

          "ISS, ISS; this is Ground control here"... "Have you spotted any behavioural or physical changes in the Medaka fish?"

          "Cmdr. Lip Smackingly-Good here ground control... What fish were they again?" "The Medaka fish Cmdr.!!" "So are they the fish we weren't supposed to eat?" :-)

          Commenter
          Steve_C
          Location
          Blue Mountains
          Date and time
          July 31, 2012, 3:41PM
          • web cam anywhere ?

            Commenter
            thomas vesely
            Date and time
            July 31, 2012, 5:58PM
            • Why don't they send a whale up there. Scientific research.

              Commenter
              alex
              Date and time
              July 31, 2012, 8:47PM
              • Find out where they are, real time, on:

                http://www.heavens-above.com/

                Commenter
                Larry Mounser
                Date and time
                July 31, 2012, 9:09PM
                Comments are now closed
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