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It’s a Girl 3/8 A Boy? Five New Arrivals Aboard Columbia

July 9, 1994

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Space shuttle Columbia, already jammed with jellyfish, goldfish, guppies and salamanders, gained more passengers Saturday - two new newts and three fish.

Japan’s first female astronaut, Dr. Chiaki Mukai, spotted the five freshly laid eggs less than a day into the two-week laboratory research mission.

Four female Japanese red-bellied newts and four Japanese Medaka fish - two male and two female - are among thousands of aquatic animals flying on Columbia as part of space fertilization and developmental studies.

The Medaka, a guppylike fish, weren’t swimming in circles endlessly as many other fish do in space, and that left them open for more important matters, like mating. They didn’t waste any time.

″We’re very happy,″ Japanese project scientist Shunji Nagaoka said after learning of the new arrivals.

Biologists interested in fish reproduction chose Medaka that seemed to be resistant to the common looping behavior. Nagaoka said experimenters hope to have more than 100 Medaka eggs laid in orbit; it takes about a week for the eggs to hatch.

Researchers stowed 340 Medaka eggs aboard Columbia before liftoff.

As for the newts, biologists injected hormones into two of the animals before the flight to induce egg laying. One of the seven astronauts will inject the other two newts early this week.

Nagaoka suspects the vibration of Friday’s shuttle launch may have prompted the early newt egg laying. He’s hoping for 200 to 300 more new newt eggs before Columbia returns to Earth on July 22. The shuttle was launched with 144 newt eggs handpicked by researchers.

Scientists collected the adult newts from Japanese rice paddies last winter. Female newts go into hibernation after the fall mating season and store sperm in their bodies for fertilizing their eggs in the spring. Scientists kept the newts refrigerated, to prolong hibernation, until early last week.

The six Japanese goldfish on Columbia, meanwhile, were reported to be in good shape, albeit a little restless.

The astronauts assigned to the shuttle laboratory spun jellyfish and slime mold in a slow-rotating centrifuge designed to mimic Earth’s gravity. A centrifuge microscope showed young jellyfish pulsating and darting through water. The slime mold when magnified looked like, well, a blob.

NASA mission scientist Robert Snyder said everything was going well inside the laboratory except for a Japanese radiation-monitoring experiment hindered by a bad data-communication link. Engineers spent Saturday working on a repair plan.

Columbia’s pilot and plumber, James Halsell Jr., handled the only other significant problem. It took him a few hours to fix the shuttle toilet - the solid-waste compactor was stuck.

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