A SpaceX Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed until Wednesday due to moldy mouse chow. Originally scheduled to lift off today, the unmanned CRS-16 mission has been set back until 1:16 pm December 5, 2018 EST because food bars for an onboard rodent experiment have gone off and need replacement.
Cargo flights to the ISS have become as routine as milk runs in recent years, but they can still be interrupted for many reasons. It might be that the weather is too foul, there could be a technical issue, or even a spectacular rocket malfunction.
But sometimes delays can be surprisingly mundane. According to NASA, this is what happened to CRS-16. Set to carry 5,600 lb (2,500 kg) of supplies and science experiments to the space station, the Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to spend five weeks berthed at the ISS before returning to Earth with a science cargo. It's a complex and detailed manifest, but a few moldy food bars were enough to scrub Tuesday's launch.
The food bars are intended for inmates of the high-tech rodent habitat, which can house 10 mice or six rats. The metallic cages provide the rodents with water, food, lighting, and fresh air. Since rats and mice aren't made for weightlessness, the habitat is also equipped with rods for them to grasp as they move about. However, privacy is at a minimum as the habitat is also bugged with data links and a visual/infrared video system, so scientists can keep a constant eye on their charges.
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