In 2019, tardigrades were sent to the Moon – maybe they have already gotten used to their new place?

In February 2019, the Israeli company SpaceIL successfully launched the Beresheet spacecraft into lunar orbit. It was supposed to become the very first private vehicle to make a soft landing on the earth's satellite. Among the numerous space equipment inside was a capsule containing tardigrades, tiny organisms that have the ability to survive even in the harshest environments. Unfortunately, the structure was unable to brake in time before landing and crashed at a speed of 500 kilometers per hour. The impact was so strong that the device broke into pieces. What happened to the tardigrades? Could they have survived the fall and started living on the Moon?

In 2019, tardigrades were sent to the Moon - maybe they have already gotten used to the new place? There were tardigrades inside the Bereshit spacecraft that crashed on the Moon, and they had a chance of survival. Photo.

There were tardigrades inside the Bereshit spacecraft that crashed on the Moon, and they had a chance of survival

Contents

  • 1 The most resilient creatures on Earth
  • 2 How animals survive without food
  • 3 Is there life on the Moon
  • 4 Why is there no life on the Moon
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    The most durable creatures on Earth

    Tardigrades are tiny creatures, less than a millimeter long, that can only be seen through a microscope. These are not microbes, but full-fledged organisms with nerve cells, eyes, a mouth opening at the end of a small proboscis, intestines and four pairs of legs with claws. Despite their tiny size, they are related to spiders and other arthropods.

    The most durable creatures on Earth. In their appearance, tardigrades resemble aliens. Photo.

    Tardigrades resemble aliens in their appearance

    To survive, they must feed on tiny algae and other food and be surrounded by water. However, they can survive even in extreme conditions – for example, their traces were found on the top of Everest, the highest point on our planet. Tardigrades are most often found in the wild, but they can also be found in urban environments. But we don’t notice them, because this requires a microscope.

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    How animals survive without food

    To stay alive, tardigrades slow down their metabolism, losing 95% of their body's water volume. Science knows of the existence of 1,265 species of tardigrades (including fossils), and some of them are capable of producing substances that prevent them from freezing. Some of the proteins they produce are capable of protecting every cell in their body.

    How animals survive without food. Tardigrades are also known as water bears. Photo.

    Tardigrades are also known as water bears

    When a tardigrade is deprived of fluid, its body size is halved and its legs disappear . This condition is called cryptobiosis, and the tiny creatures remain in it until the surrounding conditions become more favorable. According to scientists, adult tardigrades can survive at temperatures ranging from -272 to 150 degrees Celsius. They can also withstand high levels of radiation.

    Read also:Can bacteria survive in outer space?

    Is there life on the Moon

    < p>If tardigrades are so tenacious, maybe they survived the crash of the Bereshit spacecraft and are breeding on the Moon right now? According to scientists, they could well have survived the destruction of the device, but in lunar conditions their life would have been short.

    During one of the studies, scientists assessed the survivability of tardigrades of the species Hypsibius dujardini when colliding with sand at a speed of 3000 kilometers per hour . At this speed they died, but at 2600 kilometers per hour or less they managed to survive.

    Is there life on the Moon. All types of tardigrades look about the same. Photo.

    All types of tardigrades look about the same

    On the Moon, all living organisms are destructively affected by cosmic radiation. But, as we have already found out above, tardigrades are resistant to harmful rays. Scientists believe that for some time they can even live in outer space.

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    Why there is no life on the moon

    However, tardigrades on the Moon can be quickly killed by temperature and lack of water. During the day on the Earth's natural satellite it can be +120 degrees. At night the temperature drops to -160 degrees Celsius. Considering that day and night on the Moon last for a very long time, tardigrades have minimal chances of survival.

    In addition to the strong temperature changes on the Moon, there is no water or food for tardigrades. Of course, there is water on the satellite in a frozen state, but for tiny creatures it is important that it be liquid.

    Why is there no life on the Moon. There is a very high probability that the Moon is a completely lifeless place. Photo.

    There is a very high probability that the Moon is a completely lifeless place

    Based on all this, it turns out that no – tardigrades are unlikely were they able to survive the crash of the Beresheet? In 2026, humans intend to return to the Moon again as part of the Artemis space program. During these missions, astronauts will likely take samples of lunar soil to study in laboratory conditions on Earth. And the likelihood that they will find life in these materials is almost zero.

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    If you want to learn more about these amazing creatures, be sure to read our material “5 facts about tardigrades – the toughest creatures in the world.” It tells how scientists first discovered tardigrades, where they live, which of them are considered the largest, and so on. In general, after reading this article, you will greatly expand your erudition!


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