Scientists with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Research Institute in La Jolla have been preparing for months to send fruit flies to the International Space Station.
“When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut,” said Karen Ocorr, Ph.D. “So this is really very cool for me.”
Ocorr is an assistant professor with the institute's Development, Aging and Regeneration Program.
On June 1, a rocket will launch 600 fruit fly eggs as part of a project with Ocorr and her team.
The flies will hatch in space and live up there for a month, which is about half the life span of a fruit fly.
When they return, the flies will be adults and comparable in age to astronauts completing space missions.
At that point, researchers will dissect the hearts of the fruit flies to calculate the effect of gravity.
SpaceX successfully launched its first recycled rocket in March, the biggest leap yet in its bid to drive down costs and speed up flights.
Besides becoming the first commercial cargo hauler to the International Space Station, SpaceX is building a capsule to launch NASA astronauts as soon as next year.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on Of Course I Still Love You — world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 30, 2017
It's also working to fly two paying customers to the moon next year, and is developing the Red Dragon, a robotic spacecraft intended to launch to Mars in 2020 and land. Musk's ultimate goal is to establish a human settlement on Mars.
Blue Origin, an aerospace company started by another tech billionaire, Jeff Bezos, is also developing a way to recycle rockets in the race to create a viable way to offer commercial spaceflight.
Ocorr said it’s important research given the new interest in commercial space exploration.
“We really need to know how that’s going to affect the human physiology if we’re going to be able to successfully establish things like that,” Ocorr said.
Ocorr plans to let the returning flies reproduce so she can study their offspring and see if the stress of space can be passed on to future generations.