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Mice, gerbils die on space mission

AFP-JIJI

A number of mice and eight gerbils sent into space in a Russian capsule destined to find out how well organisms can withstand extended flights perished during their journey, scientists said Sunday as the monthlong mission touched back down on Earth.

Most of the 45 mice sent into orbit — along with the gerbils and 15 newts — died on the mission, which nevertheless returned with data that scientists hope will pave the way for a manned flight to Mars.

The animals on board the Bion-M craft died because of equipment failure or due to the stresses of space, scientists said.