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Space


Unmanned Biological Flights

By Marcia S. Smith*

1971-1975

UNMANNED BIOLOGICAL FLIGHTS

A. KOSMOS 110

At the time of the Voskhod flights, a number of statements were made indicating that further manned flights would occur. One can only speculate whether fiscal economies led to a cancellation of these missions, or whether it was decided to apply the existing stock of launch vehicles to other programs while engineering a later generation manned ship. But apparently at least one more Voskhod flew; only it was unmanned.

Designated Kosmos 110, it was launched on February 22, 1966 into a 904 x 187 km orbit by an A-2 vehicle and carried two dogs, Veterok and Ugolek. A television monitor was on board to add to telemetry from biological and cabin environment sensors. The flight set a duration record of 22 days, following which the dogs were successfully recovered. Data from this mission considerably expanded Soviet information on the more prolonged effects of weightlessness and radiation.

B. KOSMOS 605

After a seven year hiatus, the Soviet Union launched another biological satellite, although it is unclear whether a Vostok or Soyuz was used. A Soviet picture not published in the West seems to show a Vostok derivative. Kosmos 605 was launched from Plesetsk by an A-2 vehicle on October 31, 1973 into a 424 x 221 km orbit, inclined at 62.8°, with a period of 90.7 minutes. Aboard the vehicle was a cargo of several dozen white rats, six boxes of steppe tortoises, a colony of Drosophila fruit flies, flour beetles, a mushroom bed and cultures of living bacteriological spores. A control package was kept on Earth during the 21 day space flight, with the only difference in conditions being the gravitational factor.

A. Bumazyan, Deputy Health Minister of the Soviet Union, described the purpose of the mission as “to investigate what functions and processes at the cellular level of the organization of living systems are particularly sensitive to the action of weightlessness and space radiation, and how substantial an effect these can have on the functioning of the organism as a whole.” (22)

The condition of the animals was assessed by the amount of motor activity exhibited. This was measured by 'a special electric monitoring system which used the animals as cores in a weak magnetic field inside their cages. The amount of movement was registered every two hours and telemetered to Earth.

After recovery of the spacecraft, equal numbers of space and control specimens were subjected to autopsy 'at various time intervals. Some were examined immediately after the flight, others were kept up to 30 days, and still other were kept for prolonged study. A detailed discussion of the results of this mission are given in Chapter Four.

C. KOSMOS 690

A year after Kosmos 605, the Russians launched another mission dedicated to biological research. Again carrying white rats, turtles, Drosophila, lower fungi and microorganisms, Kosmos 690 was placed into a 389 x 223 km orbit inclined 'at 62.8° with an A-2 vehicle on October 22, 1974 .

The primary purpose of this mission, unlike Kosmos 605, was to study the effects of stronger radiation on animals and plants in space. For this, a cesium 137 gamma-ray source was used to dose the rats with 200-1000 rad daily on command from Earth (1,200-1,300 rad is lethal).

After recovery on November 12, the space rats were not only less active than their controls, but they had developed hemorrhages in the lungs. Scientists concluded that exposure to radiation in space has a much greater effect than on Earth. A more detailed discussion of the biological aspects of this mission is in Chapter Four.

D. KOSMOS 782

Pursuant to an agreement between the two countries, the Soviet Union included U.S. experiments on the next in their series of biosats. Experiments were also conducted by specialists from Czechoslovakia , France , Hungary , Romania and Poland . The spacecraft, Kosmos 782, was launched from Plesetsk on November 25, 1975 into a 405 x 227 km orbit, inclined at 62.8° with a period of 90.5 minutes.

As a special feature, Kosmos 782 carried a centrifuge to study effects of gravity on living organisms in space. Identical specimens were placed on the centrifuge and off it for comparison purposes. One joint US/USSE experiment studied the growth of cancer cells following up on a discovery by American scientists that the greater the force of gravity, the slower the rate at which cancer cells grow. Czechoslovakia provided a number of white rats for studying the overall effect of spaceflight on organisms, and a French/Romanian/Soviet experiment studied cosmic ray influences on organisms and seeds.

Another joint US/USSR experiment was to study cosmic effects on the aging process in Drosophila which reproduce so rapidly that several generations can be studied on one space flight. Other U.S. experiments included: effects of prolonged weightlessness on plant systems, using carrot slices; detection of heavy particle radiation at different locations aboard the spaceship; and the effects of weightlessness on vestibular systems of killifish.

The Russians invited American scientists to participate in analysis of several of their experiments, including: stress reactions of animals during space flight; effects of weightlessness on the life span of red blood cells, hormonal content of the pituitary gland, and bone tissue development; and possible damage to the retina from high energy particle radiation.

Kosmos 782 landed on December 15, after 19.5 days in space. The mission had originally been scheduled for 22 days, but snowstorms in the recovery area forced an early end to the flight. The Russians announced that for the first time, a set of post-flight experiments were conducted at the landing site using a mobile field laboratory. Preliminary analysis of the NASA experiments indicates that the program went very well. Shortly before the mission had been launched, NASA was invited to include experiments on the next biosat as well, to be launched in 1977. NASA officials seemed pleased to have an opportunity to continue such tests, since they will have to wait until the space shuttle is ready before they can conduct their own biology experiments in space.

References:

(A) SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS, 1971-75, OVERVIEW, FACILITIES AND HARDWARE MANNED AND UNMANNED FLIGHT PROGRAMS, BIOASTRONAUTICS CIVIL AND MILITARY APPLICATIONS PROJECTIONS OF FUTURE PLANS, STAFF REPORT , THE COMMITTEE ON AERONAUTICAL AND SPACE .SCIENCES, UNITED STATES SENATE, BY THE SCIENCE POLICY RESEARCH DIVISION CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, VOLUME – I, AUGUST 30, 1976, GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON : 1976,

22. Pravda, Moscow , Nov. 9, 1973 , p. 3.

•Ms. Smith Is an analyst in science and technology. Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.



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