The geckos had been on a two-month mission launched to facilitate research on the effects of zero-gravity on reproductive systems.
Last week, Roscosmos announced abruptly that the mission had reached completion earlier than anticipated — after a mere 44 days.
The satellite landed in Orenburg on Monday afternoon amid widespread speculation on the crew of tiny cosmonauts' survival prospects. Upon cracking open the hatch, rescue teams discovered a tragic scene.
In 2011 the Ardbeg Distillery in Scotland partnered with Texas space research company NanoRacks to launch a vial of unmatured malt and charred oak pieces into orbit. The vial was launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket later that same year while an identical vial was kept as a control in the Ardbeg distillery. On September 12th, 2014 the vial is scheduled to return to Earth so the two can be compared. The hope in the experiment is to see how microgravity conditions affect the maturation process of whisky.