At some point in the not-so-distant future, NASA and other space groups around the world will begin embarking on manned missions deeper into our solar system than our species has ever gone before. That means long journeys and extended stays in microgravity for the astronauts who embark on them, and that could pose a problem.
Thanks to the International Space Station we know quite a bit about the effects of low gravity on the human body, but NASA wants to learn more. To that end, the agency has been studying how other species deal with low gravity, specifically focusing on mice. The results are equal parts interesting and humorous.
As NASA explains in a new blog post, scientists sent a specially designed mouse habitat module to the International Space Station along with some of the furry little rodents. The enclosure allowed researchers to study the behavior of the mice remotely from Earth via video feeds, and now we get to enjoy those videos for ourselves.
As you’ll no doubt notice in the video, the mice definitely seem uncomfortable at the beginning of the experiment. They flop around, drifting within the small confines of the cage and do their best to figure out which way is up, but to no avail. However, it’s not long before the mice begin to catch on, adapting remarkably well to their new environment and even using the lack of gravity to their advantage as they push themselves around the cage.
That’s when things really get wild, with video from day 11 of the experiment showing that the mice are not only dealing with the gravity change but actually seem to be enjoying it. Several of the mice are observed running laps around the cage walls, turning the entire enclosure into something of a hamster wheel.
NASA researchers wanted to see whether the mice would continue doing the same kinds of activities they were observed doing on Earth. The study showed that the mice kept much of their routines intact, including self-grooming and eating when hungry.
Research like this can help NASA better prepare for future missions to Mars and beyond by revealing what kinds of behavioral and biological changes might take place in mammals exposed to extended stays in microgravity. It seems it also produces some amazing videos.