Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 January 2020

'Mighty mice', worms and a helper robot arrive at space station

SpaceX's 19th delivery to the ISS also includes Christmas presents

The International Space Station is due to receive another delivery on December 9, 2019 from a Russian rocket. Courtesy Nasa
The International Space Station is due to receive another delivery on December 9, 2019 from a Russian rocket. Courtesy Nasa

A SpaceX ship arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday with a cargo including super muscular “mighty mice”, worms and a smart, empathetic robot.

The station commander, Italy's Luca Parmitano, used a large robot arm to grab the Dragon three days after its launch from Cape Canaveral. The two spacecraft were soaring 420 kilometres above the South Pacific at the time of capture.

“Whenever we welcome a new vehicle on board, we take on board also a little bit of the soul of everybody that contributed to the project, so welcome on board," Mr Parmitano told mission control.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 5, 2019 with cargo load for the International Space Station. AP Photo
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 5, 2019 with cargo load for the International Space Station. AP Photo

The capsule holds nearly three tonnes of supplies, including 40 mice for a muscle and bone experiment. Eight of them are genetically engineered with twice the normal muscle mass — and so are considered “mighty mice". There also are 120,000 roundworms, or nematodes of a beneficial variety that are part of an agricultural study.

The capsule also has a large, round robot head with artificial intelligence and the ability to sense astronauts' emotions. Named Cimon, it is an improved version of what flew up last year to be tested as an astronaut's helper.

Nasa tucked some Christmas presents in the shipment for the station's six-person crew, as well.

It was SpaceX's 19th delivery to the space station for Nasa over the past seven years.

The astronauts have another delivery coming on Monday – this one launched by Russia from Kazakhstan on Friday.

Updated: December 8, 2019 03:57 PM

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