New York: Good news for astro-rats. They will now have a new high-tech cage to fly them to the International Space Station (ISS), courtesy NASA.
An unmanned SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will take rodents in their new home - designed for transporting the animals for research to help astronauts cope with health situations in space conditions - in August 2014.
Developed at NASA's Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, the new habitat consists of a transport module and an access module for moving the rodents from the transporter to the station's rodent habitat - without having the mice escape and take up residence behind the control panels.
The habitat modules hold 10 mice or six rats and are designed to provide them with water, food, lighting and fresh air, NASA reported.
The access modules also allow the crew to remove the animals from the habitat for observation.
The habitats also have data links and a visual/infrared video system.
Astronauts on the ISS have revealed a number of problems owing to zero gravity.
Loss of muscle mass, weakening of bones, and health issues with cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous, reproductive and immune systems are among them.
The research on rats in space is aimed at understanding these effects at the genetic and molecular level with the hope of finding ways to combat them, NASA said.