Learn more about how studying the balance of jelly fishes in space can teach us more about dealing with space sickness.
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Studying the Balance of Jelly Fish in Space Shuttle launches always make a compelling site, however on this site the payload was something rather unusual. It consisted of micro organisms otherwise known as jelly fish and was sent up by NASA to help learn more about living in space. Although it looks easy floating around, living in space certainly has its problems. Before humans traveled into space, animals were sent. When the first animal space travelers returned to earth in good health, they brought back enough information to safely send astronauts into space. But even when NASA sent John Lennen to space to orbit the earth in 1962, they still weren’t exactly sure how his body would react. On earth we feel the effects of gravity almost everywhere but you can experience a similar environment to space by going underwater, unfortunately you can’t stay underwater for long periods of time. Micro gravity can be experienced on a roller coaster rider or in one of NASA’s special aircraft used to stimulate it. But these only last 15 to 20 seconds at a time, the beauty of the first US space station sky lab was the ability to study living organisms in zero gravity. Doctor Dorothy Spangenberg is the expert that made these experiments happens. She has been looking at jellyfish and has noted their similarities to humans. Doctor Spangenberg and his students have worked with jelly fish for nearly 30 years before the opportunity of sending them to space presented itself. Jellyfish are among the simplest organisms but they have neurons or nerve cells similar to humans. They have sensors called gravity receptors located at their arms. This helped them maintain their balance and know where they are going like a built in compass. The gravity receptors tell them which way is up or down. We also have them in our inner ear, they help us maintain our balance, after riding one of an amusement park ride, and you feel like you are going to fall down. That’s because the motion affects you're inner ear, even after you stop, the fluids in you're inner ear keep moving, this affect makes you dizzy. This type of motion sickness also affects astronauts in space, by learning more about the development and function of gravity receptors, scientists hope to be able to fight the effects of space sickness. By sending jellyfish up into space they wanted to find out if they would react differently in micro gravity. Would they still know what is up and what is down? By the time the shuttle had settled into orbit, the jellyfish had passed their first test, proving that a micro organism can withstand the forces of lift off, to help the jelly fish to develop to the first stage of development, the IV mixture was added to another group of jellyfish and while the experiments were being conducted on the orbiter. Simultaneous experiments were conducted on the ground. Both groups of jellyfish were videotaped as they swam in the hope of recording any changes on their movement or behavior. One of the most exciting changes happened almost straight away, remember how the jellyfish use their arms to pulse up and float down to feed on earth? In micro gravity, the jelly fish moved in circles but they were still able to pulse and swim easily. In fact despite being in a micro gravity environment, the jellyfish pulps developed normally. After nine days in orbit, they began to prepare the jellyfish for the way home. One group was secured in the locker to be immediately studied after landing. The second group was preserved in a special liquid to be studied and compared to the jellyfish on the simultaneous earth experiments. Scientists spent more than a year studying the micro gravity jellyfish and comparing them to the earth bound group. The results surprised everyone, after swimming in circles in space, some of the jellyfish swam a little differently on earth, and however most of them adapted to their normal behavior patterns pretty quickly. Scientists believer that their gravity receptors