A Russian space capsule carrying 45 mice, 15 newts, and a host of other small, possibly adorable animals, returned from a one-month mission in orbit Sunday. The Bion-M spacecraft landed safely in the Orenburg region of Russia, some 750 miles south of Moscow, according to Russian Mission Control.
Along with snails and gerbils, the capsule holds recorded data that Russian scientists hope will help pave the way for the first manned flights to Mars. A field laboratory has already been deployed near the landing site so that scientists can begin observing the effects of microgravity on the skeletal structure, nervous systems, and circulatory function of the animals.
According to Russian Mission Control, these tests would have been impossible to conduct on humans aboard the International Space Station. They also added that a mission separate from the ISS was necessary since a small zoo on the station would have posed a tremendous health risk.
There is no word yet on whether the animals have actually survived the ordeal or developed super powers.