Russian authorities plan to put geckos in space, claims a report from the Russian news agency Interfax, the latest twist in a wild and whacky week for the famously space-conscious superpower.
The reptile development follows this week's leaking of documents detailing Russia's space plans for the coming years, among them rather bewildering ambitions for a 2030 moon mission.
But back to the geckos. The reptiles, unique to the lizard world due to their chirping abilities, are to "undergo a tough selection process before departing with the Bion-M satellite, which is set to be launched toward the end of 2012," Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems spokesperson said, according to The Moscow Times.
"[T]here will also be no place for those which are easily excited or aggressive," the spokesman added, perhaps a bit severely.
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But Britain's The Sun was quick to put the move in context, noting that fruit flies went into orbit in 1947.
But the "most famous creature cosmonauts were Rhesus monkey Albert II, who went up in 1949," The Sun said, "and Laika the dog who tragically died after being sent up by Russia in 1957."
Satellites are to carry a total of fifteen lizards into space, where they will be observed alongside a corresponding group on Earth, the Moscow Times said.
Why were geckos singled out? Is it their impressive ability to scale walls or, in some cases, walk on water?
"Geckos don't need much special training because of their particular way of life," the Biomedical institute spokesman explained, saying that "under effects of unusual gravity changes, you see that they don't care where they run, on the floor, wall or ceiling."
Seems laughable, but scientists this week announced that human astronauts sent into space for long periods of time came back with weird eyeball issues due to unforeseen extraterrestrial affects on the brain, according to the report published Tuesday in the journal Radiology.
The New Scientist reported that scientists found some astronauts experienced a flattening of the eyeball while others may even develop blindness, results it said "could jeopardise long-haul missions into space."
Turns out the Russian reptile experiment may, in fact, be something we should all keep an eye on.