The early bird will have to fly several miles above the earth to get the worm in Ames this weekend. The Iowa State University Spacecraft Systems and Operations Laboratory is sending worms into space for experiments. Colt Wallace, acting associate director of the lab, says they’re sending up tiny roundworms. He says a group from NASA and Stanford University are experimenting to see how microgravity impacts the genetics of the worms. Wallace says I-S-U is providing the vehicle to get the worms in space. He says they’re using a latex balloon to send the worms to an altitude of approximately 107-thousand feet or 20 miles above the earth. Wallace says the flights last about three hours. He says they’ll be flying accelerometers aboard the craft to see how much and ho long the worms experience microgravity. The roundworms normally live in soil where they can find rotting vegetation. Wallace says they were chosen for a specific reason. He says the genome for the worm has been well-defined, so he says it’s easy to note any changes to it. The balloon will carry the worms aloft and eventually burst, and a parachute then lowers the worms to the ground. A crew of students tracks the worms with global positioning technology and retrieves them. The flights typically last about three hours. And the payloads typically land within about 60 miles of Ames. The first flights were Friday and additional flights are scheduled for today ( Saturday) and Sunday, depending on the weather.
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