By now, you've seen the amphibian invariably referred to in the press as "an unfortunate frog" being lifted towards the heavens after it wandered too close to a NASA launch pad in Virginia. But did you know that this frog was not the first to try (and fail) to reach space?
At The Guardian, Jason Goldman writes about the history of frogs in space (or, at least, frogs that were briefly pointed at space), which dates all the way back to September 19, 1959, when the US Air Force attempted to send up two frogs on board a Jupiter AM-23 rocket. Why frogs? Goldman explains:
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That's one giant leap for a frog beside NASA's LADEE spacecraft lifting off last Friday at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (via @NASA on Instagram)
Every now and then, I get a glorious reminder of just how much the Internet has enriched my life. Fifteen years ago, if I had arrived at a conference center—as I did yesterday for my stint in the Marine Biological Laboratory Science Journalism Fellowship program—and seen a sign in the lobby announcing the presence of a "Xenopus Workshop" I could have, eventually, found out that a Xenopus was a frog frequently used as a model animal in medical research.
Thanks to the Internet, though, I was able to learn the following things in a remarkably short period of time:
Xenopus Fact: Xenopuses (Xenopodes? Xenopi? Freshman Latin was a really long time ago, you guys) were used in one of the earliest reliable pregnancy tests. That's because exposure even a tiny amount of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin will cause a female Xenopus to lay eggs. Inject a female Xenopus with urine from a human female and, if the Xenopus lays eggs, it means the female human is knocked up.
Xenopus Fact: You know how some lizards can grow a new tail if you cut the old one off? Xenopuses can do that with the lenses of their eyes.
Xenopus Fact: Because Xenopuses are so widely used in laboratories, there's a whole industry of suppliers of Xenopuses and Xenopus accessories. Case in point, the "Xenopus enrichment tube" in the photo above—apparently, they like to have something to hide out in. Also, you can buy synthetic slime to replace your Xenopus' natural protective coating that is often lost through frequent handling.