Tardigrades Crash Landed On The Moon
After Isreal’s Beresheet spacecraft crash-landed last April, the moon may now be home to tardigrades. Also known as Earth’s most indestructible animals. Their chances of survival are said to be extremely high, meaning that there is now life on the moon.
What Are Tardigrades?
Tardigrades are miniscule, multicellular organisms. They are, essentially, what an eight-legged beetle might look like, if you pushed their head in a bit. Then gave them the power to continue surviving in pretty much any condition. So, whether it’s minus 200 degrees Celsius, or 148.9C, arid landscapes suffering from radiation or pressurised containers that offer over 6 times the pressure within the deepest parts of the ocean – all the way through to the vacuum of space. Tardigrades can survive it all.
Put simply, tardigrades are pretty badass. Which makes you wonder why they have such cute nicknames as “water bears” and “moss piglets”. More importantly, however, these tiny creatures are able to survive conditions well outside the realms of human possibility.
What Are Tardigrades Doing On The Moon?
The water bears had been dehydrated, placed in suspended animation and then encased in artificial amber. All in the hopes of providing a “backup” of planet Earth. The lunar library is a relatively new project, which hopes to maintain stores of genetic material, by way of safeguarding humanity and other animals, in the future. However, the Beresheet spacecraft had an engine failure, which led to the spacecraft crashing on the moon, instead.
Still, while they may not have been flying the spacecraft themselves, or wanted to be there (who knows? They might be enjoying the holiday) these “water bears”, as they’re commonly known, may revive decades down the line. Speaking to the BBC, Nova Spivack the Arch Mission Foundation boss says, “We believe the chances of survival for the tardigrades… are extremely high.”
What Does This Mean and Why Does It Matter?
First and foremost, the main problem is that the moon was seen as a “pristine environment” in which there was no life. At all. Indeed, any spacecraft that leaves Earth is bound by the Outer Space Treaty not to contaminate their environment. And, it’s fair to say, that agreement has not been maintained, due to this latest mishap from the Israeli government.
Open University professor of planetary and space sciences Monica Grady states, “I don’t think anybody would have got permission to distribute dehydrated tardigrades over the surface of the moon. So it’s not a good thing.” However, the dehydrated tardigrades – despite their incredible ability to live for decades without water – may never come into contact with any liquids. Meaning they may never rehydrate at all, and will simply exist for many years – neither moving nor eating – before dying.
Which seems like a waste of good Moon Bears, if you ask me.