The new crew members will stay aloft until August, while their human counterparts film their movements for a study on anatomy and motor skills in space. It’s not the first outing for the salamanders, who follow in the footsteps of a nine-newt team that tragically died on re-entry last February. The snails, however, are slithering where no shell-dweller has slithered before.
As if the deaths of dozens of baby rats aboard the space shuttle Columbia wasn’t warning enough, the crew of Mir risked the ire of animal rights activists Monday -- or rather, amphibian and mollusk rights -- when their latest cargo came in. For the newest residents of the Russian space station are 15 two-year-old Oriental newts, and “about” 80 snails -- Mir biologist Georgy Samarin being unsure of the precise number of gastropod cosmonauts.