Experimental Protocol Design For The International Space Station Insect Habitat 2001-01-2232
The fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, is an ideal organism for biological research for several reasons: it is small and relatively simple to culture, has a short generation time, and can be grown in numbers large enough to permit meaningful statistical analysis. Its genetics are well understood and easily manipulated, and a vast stock of mutant and engineered strains exist which facilitate the molecular analysis of almost any biological question. In fact, much of what we currently understand about the basic mechanisms underlying metabolism, development, reproduction, behaviour, and aging is derived directly from Drosophila research. For all of these reasons, Drosophila is a logical choice on which to perform basic research into the effects of the spaceflight environment on living systems. The Space Station Insect Habitat is being developed by the Canadian Space Agency in support of this effort. This paper will discuss the challenges encountered in producing a self-contained Insect Habitat capable of not only supporting the growth and development of several generations of Drosophila, but also facilitating the extraction of useful scientific data from sometimes complicated experimental protocols performed with limited crew interaction. One such protocol will be described in detail, illustrating how these logistical problems have been solved, and indicating the sorts of data obtainable in the Habitat and its value to the scientific community.