Yesterday, Canadarm2 yanked the SpaceX Dragon from the International Space Station. It was carrying thousands of pounds of precious cargo… including a team of rodent astronauts.These weren’t five-foot cartoon mice obviously, but opportunities to use Captain EO imagery don’t present themselves all that often in the blogging world. The Dragon was returning the Rodent Research-9 team, which SpaceX delivered to the ISS about a month ago during its 12th resupply mission.NASA scientists are using the Rodent Research-9 project to take another look at how the lack of gravity affects the human body — specifically blood vessels, eyes, and joints. Dr. Kevin Ames, a senior project scientist in NASA’s space biology unit, said: “the changes we see during this rodent research experiment will allow us to better prepare our astronauts for long-term exposure to low-gravity environments.”The three modules used by Rodent Research-9 (image: NASA): habitat, transport, and animal access (left to right)One particular change they’ll be investigating is the vision loss that some astronauts experience after extended stays aboard the ISS. NASA has previously reported that about 1 in 5 astronauts are affected. The symptoms, NASA says, closely resemble those brought on by vitamin deficiency.In a related 2012 study, NASA analyzed blood and urine samples collected by crew members. Researchers were excited by the results — which were admittedly “very preliminary” — and believed they could “have significant implications for NASA and future astronauts.”The mice from Rodent Research-9 will provide NASA scientists with additional insight into what happens to live tissue. While their findings will clearly help astronauts, the general public stands to benefit, too. NASA notes that the impact on their joints, for example, “can help scientists understand how arthritis develops in people.” The study could also “help identify causes and treatments for eye disorders.”Image courtesy Orlando Parks News NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendHubble Captures Saturn’s ‘Phonograph Record’ Ring System Stay on target Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.