The time has come for the first squid in space

They already have a ticket to the ISS, where they will be part of an experiment on life in space: 128 tiny squids are about to be sent into orbit.

Laika, the Soviet dog who became one of the first animals to be sent into space, and the first to orbit the Earth, has an unlikely heir. It is 128 small bioluminescent squids of the type Euprymna Scolopes.

These underwater creatures, able to light up in the dark thanks to a special organ containing bacteria, responsible for the curious glow, already have a ticket to space. And the destination is the ISS, the International Space Station, which in 2021, incidentally, will see a bustle of unlikely guests: not only the astronaut molluscs, but two film crews, one of which includes this famous actor.

What is the space experiment with squids and tardigrades on board the ISS

To return to our invertebrates, it must be said that they will not be alone in the orbiting station. The focus of the entire experiment, part of SpaceX's 22nd cargo resupply mission (here are some curious details about Elon Musk's plans for the Moon), revolves around the relationship between the Euprymna Scolopes and 5 thousand tardigrades.

These are beneficial parasites whose size is around 0.1 millimeters. The key feature, which persuaded scientists to send them into orbit, lies in their ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions: very low or very very high temperatures, pressures higher than those of the deepest ocean depths, absence of oxygen, radiation.

Why the test will be useful for space exploration and the prospects of life outside the Earth

You may have already guessed that just the virtue a capacity for survival out of the ordinary makes the tardigrades ideal candidates for space experiments. And in fact the test that will be held aboard the ISS is oriented to deepen the relationships between living organisms and beneficial parasites during trips off Earth, in order to collect data useful for future space exploration and understand if and how it will be possible for humans to survive in zero gravity.

The project is called UMAMI, or Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions. As for microbes, because of their ability to resist external conditions that, for example, would not allow human life, there are those who assume their presence on the Moon in large quantities.

Maybe a little disappointing as "alien beings", at least for fans of science fiction, but it would be something.

Giuseppe Giordano