MOSCOW, April 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russia orbited the world's only returnable satellite dedicated to biological research in space on Friday, helping to pave the way for future interplanetary flights, Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said.
“The Bion-1M satellite has separated from the Soyuz carrier rocket and entered an elliptic orbit at 575 kilometers (357 miles) above the Earth,” a Roscosmos spokesman told RIA Novosti.
Bion-M1 is carrying 45 mice, eight Mongolian gerbils, 15 geckos, snails, and containers with various microorganisms and plants.
During its 30-day flight, more than 70 physiological, morphological, genetic and molecular-biological experiments will be conducted in support of long-duration interplanetary flights including Mars missions.
In addition, Bion-1M carries a number of Russian and foreign microsatellites that will gradually detach from the spacecraft in the next two days and go on their individual missions.