Humans have accidentally introduced nearly indestructible animals onto the moon that can survive the most hostile environments on Earth. This sounds like the beginning of a science-fiction movie where space-radiated creatures get superpowers and come back to kill human beings.
Tardigrades are incredible microscopic animals that can survive in just about any environment, even outer space. Tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets, can live in such extreme environments from high-altitude mountaintops to the deepest seas including the Mariana Trench to fiery volcanoes to the frigid Antarctic with temperatures of -20 degrees.
Tardigrades eat plant cells, algae and small invertebrates; and typically can be found in mosses and lichens. Water bears have four pairs of legs, which usually have claws. There are approximately 1,150 known species of Tardigrades and they have been around since at least 530 million years ago and have survived all five mass extinctions. Tardigrades are more tenacious than that girl from Tinder that won’t stop calling you after you ditched her one hour into your first date.
Tardigrades are not bothered by extreme temperatures, extreme pressure, lack of oxygen or even lack of food and water. Tardigrades are classified as “extremophiles” and are able to survive these extreme conditions by going into a state of cryptobiosis, where they suspend their metabolism. The water’s bear’s cryptobiotic state is known as a “tun,” and they use it to drop their water content to as low as 1%. This state of suspended metabolism and dehydration allows tardigrades to go without food or water for more than 30 years.
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The amazing micro-animals were taken into space in 2007 and they were subjected to the unrelenting conditions for 12 days. The 2007 European Space Agency’s Foton-M3 experiment exposed tardigrades to space. The space radiation didn’t affect the water bears because they can handle radiation 1,000 times stronger than humans can endure.
Forward to April of this year when the tardigrade’s indomitability was put to the ultimate test. On April 11, 2019, the Israeli lunar lander Beresheet accidentally crash-landed onto the Moon. The spacecraft was carrying thousands of space-resistant water bears.
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The spaceship was transporting a 30-million page archive of human history, human DNA samples and thousands of dehydrated tardigrades. Now, people are wondering what happened to those water bears, if they survived the crash and if they are living their best life on the moon.
One of those people wondering what the lunar water bears are doing is Nova Spivack, the founder of Arch Mission Foundation. The mission of the Arch Mission Foundation is to create a “backup of planet Earth” and they supplied Beresheet with the archive of human history on the mission.
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Spivack assured the public that the tardigrades could not reproduce on the moon. Sorry water bears, you won’t be clapping interstellar buttcheeks.
“We sent enough DNA to regenerate life on Earth, if necessary,” Spivack tweeted Tuesday. “Although it would require more advanced biotech than we have to do that. At least our DNA is offsite now. But note that cells and DNA cannot survive or reproduce on the moon. Yet if retrieved they could be useful.”
“About the tardigrades in the Lunar Library: Some are sealed in epoxy with 100 million human, plant and microorganism cells,” Spivack said on Twitter. “Some are encapsulated onto the sticky side of a 1cm square piece of Kapton tape that is sealed inside the disc stack. They cannot reproduce on the moon.”
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“It is not likely that cells can survive on the moon without a lot more protection from radiation,” Spivack added. “However the human cells, plant cells and microorganisms we sent could be recovered, studied and their DNA extracted — perhaps to be cloned and regenerated, far in the future.”
Astronauts going to the moon to collect invincible creatures subjected to massive space radiation that were put there by humans will only end very badly. This is definitely how we got those gigantic sandworms in the movie Dune.
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