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Unmanned Foton-M spacecraft to carry mice to orbit

RIA Novosti

29/08/2007 17:44 MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) - An unmanned Foton-M spacecraft, carrying research mice will be launched September 14, a source in the Russian Space Agency said.

The mammals, involved in physiological and biological experiments, will later return back to earth in a reentry module. The capsule, linked to the main craft by a 32km-long tether, will reenter Earth's atmosphere and land, while the Foton-M continues its flight.

The Russian scientific program includes studying how microgravity affects vital and reproductive functions in bacteria and crystallization process of different materials.

The spacecraft will also carry a European Space Agency (ESA) payload, including biological samples and equipment to conduct researches in fluid physics.

Foton spacecrafts are based on the design of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, in which Yury Gagarin was put into orbit in 1961. The first Foton-M launch in 2002 failed, when a Soyuz launch vehicle exploded a few seconds after the start. Other launches, in 2005 and 2006, were successful.

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