- Also known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades are microscopic organisms considered one of the toughest animals on the planet that can easily survive in any environment.
- They can live in water or on land, and are capable of surviving temperatures as high as 150° Celsius and as low as minus 272° Celsius albeit for a few minutes.
- They can also withstand extreme radiation, and survive decades without food.
- Tardigrades were sent to the moon on Israel’s Beresheet probe because they are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth.
- These diminutive creatures, which are under a millimetre (0.04 inches) in size, had been dehydrated to place them in suspended animation, then “encased in an epoxy of Artificial Amber, and should be revivable in the future”.
- The eight-legged animals can come back from being dried out to a lifeless husk for decades, withstand near-zero pressure in outer space and the crushing depths of the Mariana Trench.
Beresheet probe with tardigrades:
- Beresheet was a demonstrator of a small robotic lunar lander and lunar probe by an Israeli private non-profit organisation SpaceIL, supported by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
- Beresheet successfully reached the Moon, but crash-landed on the moon’s surface in April, 2019.
- In addition to providing high-resolution imagery from the surface, Beresheet would have measured the magnetic field at its landing site.
- As a part of the lunar mission, the spacecraft carried along with it SpaceIL’s first lunar library – a DVD-sized archive consisting of about 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, plant cells, animal cells, and thousands of tardigrades.
Sruvival of tardigrades:
- Now, as per the analysis of the launch company, the tardigrades might have survived the Beresheet lunar crash.
- And if they are let out on space, it essentially means that there is now life on the moon.
- But to become active, to grow, eat, and reproduce they would need water, air and food, so it would not be possible for them to multiply and form a colony
- However, their exact survival time would depend on the condition of the impact site and the temperatures to which they are exposed. “
No rescue mission:
- Even if the creatures lived on for several years, there is no crewed mission to the Moon planned until NASA’s Artemis program in 2024 at the south pole.
- Even that mission will be far from Beresheet’s crash site, so the tardigrades even if they survive probably won’t make it home.
Section : Science & Tech