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Last Updated: Tuesday November 17 2009 07:26 GMT

Worms blast off on space mission

Worms blast off on space mission

The space shuttle Atlantis has begun its latest mission with some unusual space travellers on board - worms!

The spacecraft blasted off from Florida in America on Monday night with around 4,000 of the creatures on board.

The 'wormonauts', which are so small they can only be seen under a microscope, are usually found on rubbish tips munching on bacteria.

Scientists hope the worms will help them work out why astronauts' muscles get really weak when they're in space.

Space mission

Scientists with the worms
Scientists with the worms

The 'wormonauts' will spend 11 days in orbit more than 200 miles above the Earth. In total they will travel more than 4.5 million miles on their journey.

They will be joined on their mission by some painted lady butterfly larvae, which will take part in a separate experiment.

Six astronauts will accompany the collection of creatures on the trip where they will deliver more equipment to the International Space Station.