Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Worms Survived NASA's Columbia Shuttle Disaster

C. elegans nematodes, or roundworms, undergo examination by project scientists. The worms are descendants of those that were part of an experiment that flew on the shuttle Columbia's last mission, STS-107, in 2003. The new worms were flown to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavour during the STS-134 mission in May 2011. 


When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board, NASA scientists expected that the 80 science experiments aboard the shuttle were destroyed as well.

But in the days after the tragic Columbia shuttle disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, scientists began realizing that wasn't the case. Various salvageable experiments were recovered from the wreckage, including a live group of 1 millimeter-long roundworms, or nematodes, known as Caenorhabditis elegans.

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