Space gerbils blaze trail for humans to Mars

Ten gerbils took off from the Russian-run Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan on Friday for a 12-day voyage to test the possible effects of a human mission to Mars, an official said Friday.

A Foton-M spaceship with the rodents on board took off on a Soyuz rocket, mission official Anfisa Kazakova told AFP by telephone.

The rocket is to include a cage with 10 rodents with the aim of studying the physiological and biological effects of long-term flights, she said.

The small mammals, related to rats and mice and often used as pets by children will be kept in cages containing cereals, nuts and dry grapes. Special equipment will be used to clean their excrement in the weightless conditions.

Source:  AFP

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