Strange Endeavours In Space
“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.”
The mummichog or Fundulus heteroclitus is a small and hardy fish. In fact it is so hardy that it is the ‘go-to’ fish for space research. In 1973, two mummichogs left the earth on important business. Their mission was simple: to find out how well fish swim in zero gravity (and the role of the otolith, or earbone, organs). This valuable research was to be carried out on board NASA’s Skylab space station. The world of fish-swimming experts held its breath and awaited the results. For three weeks the disorientated mummichogs swam out of control in small circles. But on the third week the mummichogs worked out how to orientate themselves using a fixed light source as a reference point.
Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961. But two Italian amateur radio enthusiasts claim they recorded manned space missions prior to Gagarin’s mission. The recordings made by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers purport to document a series of manned spaceflights by the Soviet Union over the period 1960-64 (that were unreported by Soviet media). These dramatic audio recordings of secret ‘failed missions’ appear to include the last transmissions of a spacecraft drifting helplessly into outer space. Many experts have questioned the veracity of these recordings, which feature odd non-standard Russian, a lack of the correct terminology and what appear to be technical anomalies. So far, no conclusive evidence that backs up the theory that these recordings are real has been found, though some remain convinced. Could this be a hoax?
Let’s leave aside such matters and return to the mummichogs. Though the fish that were brought into space took weeks to adjust, a new generation of mummichogs was hatched in space. Scientists were fascinated to note that these alien fish took space-flight in their stride and instantly adapted to zero gravity. Tell that to your grandpa next time he says you can’t teach a baby mummichog to swim in space.