MOSCOW, April 19 (UPI) -- Russia says it has launched an orbital Noah's Ark to study the effects of spaceflight on animals to prepare for human interplanetary flights.
Bion-M1, the world's only returnable satellite dedicated to biological research, was launched Friday, Russia's 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.
On board for a 30-day flight are 45 mice, eight Mongolian gerbils, 15 geckos, snails and containers with various microorganisms and plants, RIA Novosti reported.
The satellite's inhabitants will be the subject of more than 70 physiological, morphological, genetic and molecular-biological experiments, scientists said.