The Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medical and Biological Problems will carry out about 80 biological experiments in the course of the Bion-M project in spring 2013, Institute Director Igor Ushakov told Interfax-AVN.
"The approximate launch window for Bion-M 1 is April 15-25, 2013," he said.
Ushakov thanked the Roscosmos administration for postponing the mission for six months - short daylight hours and cold weather would have been harmful for animals if the spacecraft had landed in fall or winter. "We would have lost a substantial part of our test subjects. We are grateful that our request has been granted. The spacecraft will land in May, which is the optimal time for this unique experiment," Ushakov stressed.
In contrast with the previous Bion experiments, this spacecraft will carry test subjects both inside and outside, which will test the Panspermia theory suggesting that life might have been transferred to Earth from outer space.
"We will verify certain theories of the life genesis and distribution in the universe. We will evaluate the ability of microorganisms placed in capsules and minerals simulating meteorites that pierced through the atmosphere and fell over the Earth to withstand space conditions. The experiment will continue to test such theories. This is a fascinating scientific area - astro-biology," Ushakov said.
He also said they would carry out bio-technological experiments in the disposal of various materials in space. "There is such a problem. Many biological materials are discarded in a space flight; they have to be disposed of and it would be good to make this disposal useful for the crew," the specialist said.
There will be plenty of radio-biological experiments, too. "Radiation is a key impediment to far space travels. Molecular-genetic methods will be used for evaluating the resistance of cells, tissues and organs to space radiation," he said.
"In all, 79 medical and biological experiments will be held at the proposal of specialists of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Russian and foreign universities," he said. The year-long flight program will be coordinated by CNIIMash experts.
The project involves researchers from Germany, the United States, France, Italy, Malaysia, South Korea and Ukraine. "In all, 20 Russian research centers and about 15 foreign universities are taking part in the project," Ushakov said.
Different biological species will be the test subjects, among them Mongolian gerbils, mice, geckos, fish, fruit and seeds.