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NPJ Microgravity. 2016 Mar 3;2:16002. doi: 10.1038/npjmgrav.2016.2. eCollection 2016.

Evaluation of rodent spaceflight in the NASA animal enclosure module for an extended operational period (up to 35 days).

Author information

Space Biosciences Research Branch, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA.
Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Wyle, NASA Research Park, Moffett Field, CA, USA.
ASRC Federal Space and Defense, Beltsville, MD, USA.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Animal Enclosure Module (AEM) was developed as a self-contained rodent habitat for shuttle flight missions that provides inhabitants with living space, food, water, ventilation, and lighting, and this study reports whether, after minimal hardware modification, the AEM could support an extended term up to 35 days for Sprague-Dawley rats and C57BL/6 female mice for use on the International Space Station. Success was evaluated based on comparison of AEM housed animals to that of vivarium housed and to normal biological ranges through various measures of animal health and well-being, including animal health evaluations, animal growth and body masses, organ masses, rodent food bar consumption, water consumption, and analysis of blood contents. The results of this study confirmed that the AEMs could support 12 adult female C57BL/6 mice for up to 35 days with self-contained RFB and water, and the AEMs could also support 5 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats for 35 days with external replenishment of diet and water. This study has demonstrated the capability and flexibility of the AEM to operate for up to 35 days with minor hardware modification. Therefore, with modifications, it is possible to utilize this hardware on the International Space Station or other operational platforms to extend the space life science research use of mice and rats.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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