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In 2013, 15 ‘French’ mice orbited Earth at an altitude of 575 km inside a Bion capsule for an experiment to determine the impact of weightlessness on their bones, muscles and cardiovascular system.

The Soviet Union sent its first Bion capsule into Earth orbit in 1973, carrying a payload of biology experiments on living organisms and tissues. Ten more Bion capsules would be orbited up to 1996. In 2013, a new version of the capsule was devised for the Bion-M1 mission ("M" for modernized), for which CNES supplied an experiment called MTB (for Mouse Telemetry on Bion) to study the cardiovascular system of 5 mice and the muscles and bones of 10 mice.

The MTB experiment consisted in keeping a constant check on the mice’s blood pressure and heart rate before, during and after the flight. These data were recorded by a system adapted by CNES to operate in space. Such ‘nomadic’ monitoring of the cardiovascular system by telemetry link was a world first, while the bone and muscle experiments revisited animal physiology research shelved by the international community for several decades.

These experiments were performed under an agreement between CNES and IMBP, the Russian space medicine institute in Moscow. French research teams in Angers, Strasbourg and Saint-Etienne provided science support and are today working with the data obtained from the mission.