SpaceX launches ants, avocados and a robot towards the space station | Business


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – A SpaceX shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm was propelled to the International Space Station on Sunday.

The delivery – due to arrive Monday – is the company’s 23rd for NASA in just under a decade.

A recycled Falcon rocket exploded in the sky before dawn from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. After hoisting the Dragon capsule, the first-stage thruster landed on SpaceX’s newest ocean platform, named “A Shortfall of Gravitas”. SpaceX founder Elon Musk continued his tradition of naming the salvage boosters ships in tribute to the late sci-fi writer Iain Banks and his Culture series.

The Dragon carries over 4,800 pounds (2,170 kilograms) of supplies and experiments, as well as fresh food, including avocados, lemons, and even ice cream for the seven astronauts on the space station.

Girl Scouts send ants, brine shrimp and plants as test subjects, while scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison fly seeds of mouse watercress, a small flowering weed used in genetic research . Samples of concrete, solar cells and other materials will also be subjected to weightlessness.

A Japanese start-up’s experimental robotic arm, meanwhile, will attempt to screw objects together when it debuts in orbit and perform other mundane tasks normally performed by astronauts. The first tests will be carried out inside the space station. Future models of the robot from Gitai Inc. will venture into the void of space to perform satellite repair and other work, said Toyotaka Kozuki, chief technology officer.

As early as 2025, a squad of these weapons could help build moon bases and mine the moon for valuable resources, he added.

SpaceX had to abandon some experiments due to delays resulting from COVID-19.

It was the second launch attempt; Saturday’s test was foiled by stormy weather.

NASA turned to SpaceX and other U.S. companies to deliver cargo and crews to the space station after the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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