Russia needed to know how weightlessness would affect a gecko's sex life, so they sent one male gecko and four females into space. Now, their Foton-M4 satellite has stopped responding to messages from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, according to ITAR-Tass.
The Foton-M4 was launched on July 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and expected to return to Earth sometime in September. The satellite has equipment for several different experiments, including a chamber filled with fruit flies, mushrooms and the copulating geckos. According to RT, the satellite stopped responding to commands from Roscosmos on Wednesday, when it was supposed to propel itself into a higher orbit.
While the communication system isn't working, Progress, the Russian space firm behind the satellite, said in a statement that all other systems were working, and the shuttle can run automatically for some time. Without proper life support systems, the geckos would starve to death in about two and a half months. A spokesperson from the Institute of Biomedical Problems, the developers of the experiment, also believe the geckos are safe. “The biological experiment program started right after the spacecraft was launched," Oleg Voloshin said. "The equipment involved in the biologic experiments is in full working order.”
The Foton satellite is part of a long series of Russian space experiments stretching back to 1985. After NASA suspended all contracts with Russia in April, the latter country announced a massive $52 billion investment into its space program in May. A few days later a rocket launched into space to provide internet crashed.
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