NASA Just Sent Its Astronauts Some Weird Stuff

Flatworms, Salmonella, mustard and IMAX cameras—what, exactly, is the space agency doing?

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station on Jan. 12, and astronauts will be unloading more than 5,100 lbs (2,300kg) of cargo it brought up for NASA and other space agencies over the next month. Beyond the supplies, late Christmas presents, and replacement equipment that astronauts had been waiting for patiently, there were a few unusual items that the Dragon took up. According to a NASA factsheet, here’s what else was onboard:


NASA wants to study how these generally parasitic invertebrates regenerate their cells in low gravity. The space agency says its tests will provide insight into how wounds heal in space, and how humans could potentially heal themselves. Like Wolverine.

Fruit flies

The same insects that seemingly appear out of nowhere every time you leave fruit out in the kitchen are now on the ISS, albeit under anesthesia (as opposed to annoying astronauts while they eat). NASA says it will be testing the immune systems of the common fruit fly, as spaceflight affects all animals’ immune systems, and apparently the flies provide a good model for our own immune systems.

IMAX Camera

Christopher Nolan would probably have loved to use some of the shots the astronauts are likely to get as B-roll for Interstellar.


Continuing the self-preservation-in-space theme, NASA says it has brought up the Salmonella virus to test on roundworms, to better understand the risks of infections (and under-cooking chicken) during long-term space flights.

NASA was unable to confirm exactly what was in the care packages sent to each astronaut, or what groceries were set up beyond the usual “Space Food,” but we do know that the astronauts were really hankering for some mustard.

“We’re excited to have it on board,” astronaut Barry Wilmore told mission control, USA Today reported.”We’ll be digging in soon.”