The internet loves animals, and loves animals in surprising places even more. So, when a photo emerged showing a frog flying alongside
It may have been, as
The first attempt to send a frog into space was on
Less than two years later, the first frog to actually wind up in space was aboard the USSR's Vostok 3A rocket in
Froggy spaceflight really came into its own almost a decade later when, in 1970,
Frogs were used because their inner ears turn out to be quite a useful model for the human inner ear, and the factors that induce motion sickness in frogs are the same as those for humans and other mammals. In addition to their use as model species, frogs were also logistically valuable thanks to their amphibious nature: preflight surgery could be performed out of water, but the frogs could then be kept in water during the experiment. This was important for two reasons: first, the water cushioned the critters from the vibration that comes when you launch an 18,000kg Scout rocket into space. Second, the water would cycle carbon dioxide and heat away from the frogs, keeping them cool. This was all possible because frogs can breathe through their skin while submerged in the comfortable 60F water.
Here's how it worked: Two bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) were selected to go to space. They both had electrodes implanted into their thoracic cavities (the space that holds the heart, lungs, and other internal organs) and in the neurons that form the vestibular system within the ear. The electrodes would provide the data that scientists needed to understand how the animals experienced space motion sickness. Then, the nerves that connected to their limb muscles were cut, to prevent them from splashing around and accidentally removing the electrodes.
The results of the electrocardiogram recordings indicated that the frogs remained in good health throughout the flight. By the final day of the six day flight, the frogs' vestibular systems had essentially returned to normal, suggesting that they acclimated to the unfamiliar situation in which they found themselves.
Frogs made another trip to space in
Frogs were occasionally brought aboard
Since then, frogs' exposure to space-like environments has come mainly aboard aircraft executing parabolic flights: vomit comets. Researchers have continued to use frogs and other amphibians as models for understanding the effects of weightlessness on the body and for understanding emesis, the vomit response.
So, the high-altitude frog that made the headlines last week was just the latest in a long line of amphibians to become involved in mankind's ongoing effort to reach the stars. Though it may have indeed been the first frog to take a
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