You’ve heard of men on the Moon, but do you know about water bears?
Thousands of tardigrades, also known as “water bears” or “moss piglets,” were aboard the Beresheet spacecraft when it crashed on the moon in April.
The tiny creatures are incredibly resilient and can survive extremely low temperatures and difficult conditions, and the Arch Mission Foundation, which sent them into space, believes that some may have survived.
The tardigrades are small plump animals of no more than one millimeter. They live in water or in the film of water in plants such as lichen or moss, and can be found worldwide in some of the most extreme environments, from icy mountains and polar regions to the temperate equator and the depths of the sea.
In an attempt to create a “Noah’s ark” or a “backup” for Earth, the nonprofit organization The Arch Mission sent a lunar library to the moon, a stack of DVD-sized discs that acts as a 30 million pages archive of information about the planet. Together with the library, Arch Mission sent human DNA samples and a payload of tardigrades into space, which had been dehydrated.
“We chose them because they are special. They are the toughest way of life we know. They can survive virtually any planetary cataclysm. They can survive in the vacuum of space, they can survive radiation, ”Nova Spivack, co-founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, told CNN.
The tardigrades have eight legs with claws at the end, a brain and central nervous system, and a sucker-like pharynx behind the mouth, which can pierce food.
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The Arch Mission put the creatures in a “suspended animation” state, in which the body dries out and the metabolism slows down to just 0.01% of its normal rhythm.
“In that state, you can then rehydrate them in a laboratory and they will wake up and be alive again,” Spivack explained.
Although animals cannot reproduce or move in their dehydrated state, they could come back to life years later in the event they survived the crash and rehydrated.
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“We don’t often have the opportunity to take living beings to the Moon, beings we chose to send to take advantage of the day and send some for the trip,” Spivack added.
The researchers hope that, along with the tardigrades, most of the information in the lunar library has survived the impact of the crash and can be used to regenerate human life in millions of years.
“The best case is that the small library is completely intact, sitting on a beautiful sandy hill on the Moon for a billion years. In the distant future it could be recovered by our descendants or by a future intelligent way of life that could evolve long after we are gone, ”said Spivack.
“From the DNA and the cells we included, we could clone and regenerate the human race and other plants and animals,” he added.