Pierre Bezukhov writes "The roundworm has about 20,000 protein-coding genes — nearly as many as humans, who have about 23,000. Furthermore, there is a lot of overlap between our genome and theirs, with many genes performing roughly the same functions in both species. Launching C. elegans roundworms to Mars would allow scientists to see just how dangerous the high radiation levels found in deep space — and on the Red Planet's surface — are to animal life. 'Worms allow us to detect changes in growth, development, reproduction and behavior in response to environmental conditions such as toxins or in response to deep space missions,' said Nathaniel Szewczyk of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. 'Given the high failure rate of Mars missions, use of worms allows us to safely and relatively cheaply test spacecraft systems prior to manned missions,' he adds."