Lizard love space test back from brink as Russia contacts lost satellite
Russia re-establishes contact with satellite carrying geckos for research on sex habits
Will geckos still get it on in zero gravity? It looked like this and other pressing scientific questions would be unanswered after Russia's space agency lost contact last week with a Photon-M satellite carrying five of the lizards for an experiment on weightlessness and sexual behaviour.
But mission control outside Moscow said this weekend it had re-established communications with the satellite and the intrepid gecko "sexplorers" research would continue.
The satellite was launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on July 19 after electrical problems delayed it for three weeks. When it was left floating in space after the loss of contact, an industry source said the geckos - four females and one male - would probably die of starvation within two and a half months, predicting that the satellite would eventually fall out of orbit.
The Photon-M satellite also carries experiments to test mushroom growth in low gravity and the effects of cosmic radiation on seeds and moth eggs.
The loss of communication was the latest embarrassing moment for Russia's space industry since President Vladimir Putin promised to develop it with HK$395 billion in investment until 2020. Two Proton rockets crashed after he announced the sum, and the launch of its new Angara rocket was aborted on live television before being successfully completed this month.
Always a point of national pride, development of the Russian space industry has become even more critical as the fallout from the Ukraine crisis dampens cooperation with the United States. Nasa has been told to cut ties with its counterpart Roscosmos besides those related to the International Space Station, and restrictions have been placed on aerospace exports to Russia. Deputy prime minister for the defence and space industries, Dmitry Rogozin, has suggested Russia will not accept Nasa's offer to extend cooperation on the space station past 2020.
- The US space agency's Opportunity rover has now clocked more miles on Mars than any man-made vehicle to reach another celestial body, Nasa said.
Since arriving on the red planet in 2004, the solar-powered robot has journeyed across 40km of Martian terrain.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse