Presentation on theme: "An animal’s habitat consists of the natural environment in which it lives. In order to take animals into space we must artificially provide the animal."— Presentation transcript:
An animal’s habitat consists of the natural environment in which it lives. In order to take animals into space we must artificially provide the animal with everything it needs to survive. This closed environment becomes an artificial habitat.
The four major components of a habitat are: – Food – Water – Shelter – Space In space we also need to provide things that are taken for granted on Earth like air!
Generally the simpler the form of life the easier it is to keep in space. There is significant engineering involved in designing animal habitats for space. They must provide everything the animal requires while being kept to a minimum size and weight.
All of the animals that have flown on the Space Shuttle have been housed in the middeck area or in a laboratory module fitted into the cargo bay. Space Shuttle Middeck
Within the middeck there are 42 lockers that can be used to carry experimental payloads When rodents are launched on the Space Shuttle one to three of these lockers are reconfigured with Animal Enclosure Modules (AEMs)
Imagine you are designing a habitat to carry 5 adult rats into space aboard the Space Shuttle. The habitat must fit within a middeck locker the size of which is shown, measurements are in inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm)
As a class brainstorm what the rats will need to survive in the closed environment of their habitat inside the locker. Keep in mind they are in microgravity, what does that mean for how the rats move around, what about food and water?
In groups of 4 or 5 come up with a quick habitat design for the rats Highlight the major points and show roughly how it will all fit into such a small space. Following this we will look at NASA’s actual Animal Enclosure Module and you can see if you missed anything.
The AEM is used for studying the influence of microgravity on rodents. It can carry 5 adult rats or 8 adult mice and has flown on 23 Space Shuttle missions.
The AEM is a self-contained habitat providing its occupants with living space, food, water, ventilation and lighting. The unit has a waste management system designed to keep the animals separate from their waste and to prevent these by products and food crumbs from escaping into the Space Shuttle environment.
The module itself is composed of a stainless steel grid cage module. As the rats will be in microgravity they will be floating around just like the astronauts on board, the wire mesh gives them something to grip onto.
The AEM remains in the storage locker during take off and landing During a mission the AEM can be removed from the locker and the astronauts can observe or photograph the animals through a clear cover.
Cabin air is exchanged with the AEM through a filter system. Four fans cause air to suck waste products into a collection filter. Special filters prevent any microbiological escape into the cabin atmosphere.
Treated charcoal within the unit confines animal odours within the closed system so that astronauts don’t have to put up with rat smell! Woodchip bedding like used in rat cages on Earth is no good in microgravity.
Four internal lamps provide lighting that runs on a 12 hour day night cycle. Standard gravity feed water bottles don’t work in space so water is provided through pressurised water containers which the astronauts can refill during the mission. Dry food in a bowl is no good either, instead special compressed rodent food bars molded into a rectangular shape are placed in plates inside the cage.
The AEM is 24.50 x 43.69 x 51.05 cm and weighs approximately 27.2 kg (with food, water, and animals). It requires 35.5 Watts of power from the Space Shuttle, less than a normal light bulb! The temperature of the AEM is not controlled but is dependent on the temperature of the middeck.
More complicated habitats exist such as the Research Animal Holding Facility carried in the SpaceLab module in the cargo bay of the Shuttle.
The RAHF can carry up to 24 rats or four squirrel monkeys. Unlike the AEM the animals can be removed from the RAHF and handled for tissue or fluid sampling or administration of treatment.
The Space Station Biological Research Program is the main life sciences research to be undertaken on the ISS. Currently there are plans to build habitats for rodents, fish, quail, fruit flies as well as facilities for growing plants.
There have been a wide variety of animals sent into space and every animal requires slightly different conditions. The challenge with keeping animals in space is to provide them with a comfortable artificial habitat to undertake study.
Current animal research in space is restricted to taking animals up in the Space Shuttle and ISS for relatively short stays. Future plans involve breeding animals in space to look at the effect of microgravity over multiple generations.
Even further into the future may be the possibility of creating complete artificial eco- systems, particularly to aid life support and provide food for long duration stays by humans in space. What are some of the challenges you can think of with this ambitious idea? How could we overcome them?