Considerations and Constraints
Constraints on your Animal Care DesignThese are intended to get the discussion rolling. Especially for younger students, please don't let them get discouraged by what seems like very restrictive requirements for spaceflight. Let the kids come up with the best they can at their level of understanding.
Weight: Less than 25 kilograms. (Hint: Tell students that recent estimates show that it costs approximately $30,000 to launch 1 kg into orbit.)
Crew time: Limited to 10 minutes per day to check up on your animals; remember the astronauts are extremely busy.
Power: 120 volts 10 amps available (not really what's available in space, but we want to keep it to what kids are familiar with); extra points if you devise an innovative approach to producing your own power.
Data/Computer Connection: Standard serial port available for uplink and downlink to your classroom on the ground (for the technologically gifted).
Water: Must be self-contained, within your weight and size limitations; extra points if you propose a system to utilize waste water from the crew.
Air: Drawn from the crew cabin, assume at 20 degrees centigrade. If you want it warmer, you'll have to provide the heat source (don't forget the heat from your lights).
Microgravity Guidelines (Things to Remind Students)
Water: In space, free water forms a sphere. Students can't just have the astronauts sticking their hands in and watering the plants with a bucket.
Animal waste, food bits or other floating bits and pieces: All items MUST BE CONTAINED in space, meaning that the astronauts aren't going to be happy with bits of poop, animal pellets or dust, or hair floating around the cabin. (In fact, it's strictly forbidden.) One of the most difficult parts of all animal care designs is adequately taking care of waste, food and water.
Convection currents: Remind students that there are none, so without a fan, or some means to blow the air around, hot light bulbs tend to explode, and animals tent to suffocate in their own waste gases.
Day/Night: In a typical orbit, sunrise comes every 90 minutes. Use sunlight in your proposed design if you wish, but remember that most of the crew's work area is not in direct sunlight and a 90-minute day/night cycle can disrupt animals sleep patterns.
Animal Care Guidelines
Provide for Waste: Animals must be able to urinate and defecate normally.
Temperature: For most rodents, 64 - 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
Safety: Designs should have no sharp edges or projections that could cause injury to the animals.
Designs should have adequate ventilation. Designs should pay particular attention to providing a secure environment that does not allow escape or accidental entrapment.
Observation: Allow observation of the animals with minimal disturbance of them.
ReferencesUse of Animals on Neurolab