Thousands of tardigrades — also referred to as “water bears” or “moss piglets” — have been on board the Beresheet spacecraft when it crash-landed on the moon in April.
The tiny creatures are incredibly hardy and may survive extremely low temperatures and harsh circumstances– and The Arch Mission Foundation, which transferred them into space, believes some could have survived.
Tardigrades are small pudgy animals no longer than one millimeter. They live in water or within the film of water on plants like lichen or moss and might be discovered all around the world in a few of the most extreme environments, from icy mountains and polar areas to the balmy equator and the depths of the sea.
In an attempt to create a “back-up” or a “Noah’s ark” for the Earth, non-profit group The Arch Mission transmitted a lunar library – a stack of disks size that acts as an archive of 30 million pages of details about the planet — to the moon. Together with the library, Arch Mission sent human DNA samples and a payload of tardigrades, which had been dehydrated, into space.
“We selected them because they’re special. They’re the toughest type of life we know of. They can survive practically any planetary cataclysm. They can survive the vacuum of space. They can survive radiation,” co-founder of the Arch Mission Foundation Nova Spivack, informed.
Tardigrades have 8 legs with claws at the end, a brain and central nervous system, and a sucker-like pharynx behind their mouth, which might pierce food.
The Arch Mission put the creatures right into a state of “suspended animation,” where the body dries out, and the metabolism slows to as little as 0.01% of its normal rate.