NASA/VICTOR TANGERMANN
Space Sperm

Researchers Sent Freeze-Dried Mouse Sperm to Space to Study Radiation

byTony Tran
Jun 12
NASA/VICTOR TANGERMANN

That's one way to do it.

200-Year-Old Sperm

Sure, Elon Musk sending his Tesla up to space is cool — but that’s nothing compared to *checks notes* scientists launching freeze-dried mouse sperm to space.

Researchers studying the impact that space radiation can have on mammalian reproduction sent a sample of mouse sperm to the International Space Station for a six-year trip in 2013, according to Stat News. Upon analysis of the sample after six years (and another portion of the sample after three years), scientists found that there was no damage to the mouse sperm. In fact, they concluded that the sperm could last 200 years in space. 

The scientists behind the study released a paper of their findings in Science Advances on Friday.

Studying Radiation Effects

While the research was conducted with mouse sperm, it does provide a meaningful stepping stone for understanding the full effects of radiation on mammalian reproduction. 

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That’s going to come in handy when humans eventually launch missions to colonize other planets and spend extended periods of time in outer space. 

“[As] we move from space exploration to things like colony building and long-term living in space, doses from space radiation are going to accumulate and these may manifest as fertility and reproductive decrement,” Zarana Patel, a senior scientist with the technology and engineering company KBR, Inc., told Stat News. 

Space Mice

While it’s wild enough that researchers sent mouse sperm into space, that’s not the strangest part: Not only were the scientists able to get healthy samples back from space, but they thawed the sperm and used it to create two entire generations of mice that they’ve dubbed “space pups.”

Healthy mice were born from the samples and researchers found no irregularities between the space pups and the control group of boring Earth mice. 

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Now if only they can get some of the space mice in the same module as the glow-in-the-dark squid and we can finally make Space Zoo a reality. 

READ MORE: To explore space radiation’s impact on reproduction, scientists sent freeze-dried mouse sperm to the ISS [Stat News]

More on animals in space: SpaceX Flies Glow-in-the-Dark Squids to International Space Station


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