Yes, it's the moment we've all (secretly) been waiting for: Fish In Space!
But before you go getting too excited and start asking the big questions - like: if there's a bubble in a microgravity aquarium, what happens if the fish falls into it? Let's ponder that for a minute... - it's worth pointing out that the fish aren't actually in space right now (their habitat has just been delivered to the space station) and this fishy experiment isn't just to see how fish enjoy swimming upside down, there's some serious science behind it.
Like... to see how fish enjoy swimming upside down.
From the NASA news release:
While aquariums provide a relaxing pastime for humans on Earth, recreation is not the goal behind the new Aquatic Habitat, or AQH, aboard the International Space Station. Instead, researchers will use this unique facility to look at how microgravity impacts marine life.
The un-fished (as in, there's no fish in it, yet) AHQ arrived at the ISS today at 10:34 a.m. ET when the unmanned Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle "Kounotori 3″ berthed with the orbiting outpost. The HTV-3 is now attached to the station's Harmony module ready for the six astronauts on board to unload the supplies.
This isn't the first time marine habitats have been launched into space, although it is the first high-tech closed water circulatory system to be installed on the space station, courtesy of the Japanese space agency, JAXA. Marine habitats were flown on the shuttle missions STS-47, STS-65, and STS-90, and the AQH builds on experience with supporting fish life in low-Earth orbit. And as you might have guessed, this aquarium isn't in the same league as your household's algae-ridden goldfish bowl.
"In order to keep water quality in good condition for the health of the fish, we had to do many tests on the filtration system, especially the bacteria filter," said Nobuyoshi Fujimoto, associate senior engineer at JAXA's Space Environment Unitization Center. "The special bacteria filter purifies waste materials, such as ammonia, so that we can keep fish for up to 90 days. This capability will make it possible for egg-to-egg breeding aboard station, which means up to three generations may be born in orbit. This would be a first for fish in space."
The habitat will automatically feed the fish, it has a high-tech air circulation system and climate control, plus a specimen sampling system. LEDs will simulate the day-night cycle and a webcam will provide a Big Brother-esque voyeuristic experience for scientists (and, presumably, the public) to keep an eye on the day-to-day activities of our fishy star trekkers.
To be honest, the technology behind the space marine habitat sounds more complex than the space station itself!