Lizards, Insects, Mammals to Blast into Space from Baikonur

Lizards, gerbils, snails and cockroaches will be passengers on a Foton-M bio-satellite, which is due to be launched on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur space center Friday, RIA-Novosti quoted a biomedical institute spokesman yesterday.

They will also be joined on the twelve-day flight by three species of butterflies. The object of the butterflies' presence on board is to carry out research into the effects of space flight on their chrysalises.

The biological effects of the journey on the other creatures will also be subject to research, as part of an ongoing experiment into the effects of space flight by the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP). The creatures will be sealed in special containers, and a video camera will film them during the flight, said the Moscow-based IBMP spokesman.

A Federal Space Agency spokesman said Tuesday that the Foton launch would not be affected by the September 6 crash of a Proton-M rocket, which came down shortly after lift off from Baikonur.

"The Proton is a heavy rocket, which uses highly toxic heptyl as fuel, whereas the Soyuz is a medium-class booster using environmentally friendly fuel - kerosene and liquid oxygen," the spokesman said, adding that the two rockets are also produced by different plants - in Moscow and in Samara, respectively.

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