Twenty mice are being sent up to the International Space Station, while others stay back on Earth so researchers can investigate how being in space affects their gut microbiomes and sleep cycles, Wired reports. Ten of the mice will stay aboard for 90 days, which it says is equivalent to nine years for people.
This, Wired says, is a murine version of the NASA Twin Study in which twin brothers Scott and Mark Kelly underwent a slew of testing, including genome sequencing, gut microbiome monitoring, eyesight evaluations, and more. The goal is to figure out how space flight affects the body before sending astronauts off to destinations like Mars.
In particular, the researchers are interested in how changes to the microbiomes of the mice affect their ability to produce molecules that mice and humans need but rely on their microbes to make and whether this then affects the ability of the mice to sleep well in the low gravity of space.