The shipping manifest aboard the latest SpaceX supply run to the International Space station is certainly nothing short of eclectic, boasting ants, avocados and a robotic arm as part of almost 2,200kg of supplies and experiment for the seven astronauts on board.
The ants are for experiments in space and the robotic arm is to be used to perform engineering tasks. If it is successful in this deployment then it may be used externally in future to undertake repairs to the space station and perhaps even ultimately assemble lunar bases in the future.
The recycled Falcon rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Centre in Florida in the early hours of Sunday morning and is due to reach the space station on Monday. This is the 23rd mission SpaceX has undertaken for NASA in the last ten years and the partnership looks set to continue into the future, with Elon Musk’s company carving out a role as supply delivery specialists.
There were many experiments on board, with some from the Girl Scouts of America sending plants and brine shrimp to space as test subjects, while scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have sent seeds from a small flowering weed called mouse-ear cress, which is used in genetic research. There will also be experiments with concrete and solar cells to gauge how they do when subjected to weightlessness.
The mission was originally delayed due to the global pandemic but it has been deemed safe to proceed at this point.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/IMBdVYhwvf— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 29, 2021