Meet the New Space Pioneers: Tiny Worms

They survive and reproduce at space station
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2011 1:10 PM CST
Meet the New Space Pioneers: Tiny Worms
C. elegans nemotodes, or roundworms, undergo examination by scientists at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2003.   (Getty Images)

If humans ever manage to colonize Mars or some other far-flung planet, a tiny roundworm may show the way. Scientists sent 4,000 worms (C. elegans for the science-minded) up to the International Space Station, where they managed to not only survive but produce 12 new generations over three months, reports Discovery News. The worms share genetic traits with humans, and the experiment could shed light on how multiple generations of people might survive the rigors of life in space—specifically the ill effects of weightlessness on muscles and the heart, notes the BBC.

"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," says the study's lead researcher, according to "Ultimately, we are now in a position to be able to remotely grow and study an animal on another planet." (More space exploration stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.