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Japanese Spacecraft Delivers Mice, Booze and More to ISS

A robotic Japanese cargo ship made a special delivery to the International Space Station on Sunday, ending a four-day trek to ferry tons of food and supplies -- including some mice and (experimental) liquor -- to the orbiting lab.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle, called HTV-5, arrived at the space station at 6:55 a.m. ET, when it was captured via a robotic arm by astronauts inside of the space station. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the HTV-5 cargo ship on Wednesday.

"HTV-5 capture was successful!" wrote space station astronaut Kimiya Yui of Japan, who piloted the robotic arm along with NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, on Twitter after grappling the spacecraft. "Thank you all for your support and hard work."

After Yui and Lindgren's capture of the HTV-5 spacecraft, flight controllers at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston were expected to use the station's robotic arm to remotely park the cargo ship at an available docking port.

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JAXA's HTV spacecraft are known in Japan as "Kounotori," which is Japanese for "White Stork." The HTV-5 spacecraft is carrying about 9,500 pounds of supplies and science gear for the space station crew.

That cargo haul includes:

  • A small cache of whiskey, tequila and Midori, which are being sent to see how microgravity affects the "mellowness" of their tastes after one or two years in space. The experiment was developed by the Tokyo-based Suntory Global Innovation Center.
  • A tiny crew of 12 mice, which are part of an experiment studying the effects of weightlessness during long space missions. The mice are housed in compartments that can switch between microgravity and Earth gravity as part of that study.
  • Equipment for NASA's twins study, which is tracking Scott Kelly on the space station and his identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, on Earth. Scott is currently spending a full year on the International Space Station, while Mark, as the control subject, remains on Earth. Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko is also spending a year on the station with Scott as part of that extreme-duration flight.
  • A new CALorimetric Electron Telescope delivered by HTV-5 will seek dark matter and examine cosmic rays from the space station, away from the distorting effect of Earth's atmosphere. With the telescope's high-resolution data, researchers will learn more about the makeup of the galaxy and the risks cosmic rays pose to astronauts.

Like its name suggests, HTV-5 is the fifth Japanese HTV spacecraft to ferry supplies to the space station. Once the HTV-5 mission is complete, the vehicle will be detached from the station and travel to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

This is a condensed version of an article that appeared on Space.com. Read the original story here. Email Sarah Lewin at slewin@space.com or follow her @SarahExplains. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+.

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