Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage to the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team.
UPSOT: ROCKET COUNTDOWN June's Mission Discovery voyage to the International Space station will see an unusual variety of passenger on board - a cargo of Daphnia, a type of water fleas. University of Birmingham bioscientist Dr Kay van Damme is preparing the tiny crustaceans for their trip to Cape Canaveral...and then Outer Space. SOUNDBITE (English) DR KAY VAN DAMME, FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM'S SCHOOL OF BIOSCIENCES, SAYING: "It's a one way trip, unfortunately, they will not come back from the space station, and during their stay there they will be observed by astronauts who will take observations and look at the animals' survival and behaviour in Space." Looking for signs of stress, the astronauts will monitor the Daphnia behaviour during their month-long trip. Daphnia are one of the major animals used by biologists as a model organism for biomedical research SOUNDBITE (English) DR KAY VAN DAMME, FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM'S SCHOOL OF BIOSCIENCES, SAYING: "Trying to assess its viability in space stations opens the possibility to explore this for the future and actually see how daphnia can be used to assess either human health or to set up small fresh water self-sustaining eco systems in Space." The project was the brainchild of students from the Welsh town of Rhondda Cynon Taff. They won a contest run by the International Space School Education Trust, King's College London and Mission Discovery. Dr Julie Keeble, from Kings, says childrens' ability to think "outside the box" can be illuminating. SOUNDBITE (English) JULIE KEEBLE, FROM KINGS COLLEGE LONDON,, SAYING: "Scientists do get caught up with their research field, we work on our grants and so on and so forth, and then a school pupil can come along and learn about what we've been doing and come up with something really related but something we wouldn't have necessarily thought of ourselves." As the countdown to launch begins, Van Damme says one small leap for these water fleas could spur one giant future leap for mankind.