Hordes of Earth's toughest creatures may now be living on Moon

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There might be life on the Moon after all: thousands of virtually indestructible creatures that can withstand extreme radiation, sizzling heat, the coldest temperatures of the universe, and decades without food.

These terrifying-sounding beings aren't aliens but instead microscopic Earthlings known as tardigrades, who likely made it out alive following a on the by Israel's Beresheet probe in April, the US-based organization responsible for their trip said Tuesday.

Based on an analysis of the spacecraft's trajectory and the composition of the device the micro-animals were stored in, "we believe the chances of survival for the tardigrades... are extremely high," Nova Spivack, co-founder and chairman of the Arch Mission Foundation, told AFP.

The non-profit is dedicated to spreading backups of human knowledge and Earth's biology throughout the Solar System, a quest it likens to the creation of an "Encyclopedia Galactica" first evoked by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov.

"Tardigrades are ideal to include because they are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth," said Spivack.

He added that the diminutive creatures, which are under a millimeter (0.04 inches) in size, had been dehydrated to place them in suspended animation, then "encased in an epoxy of Artificial Amber, and should be revivable in the future."

The tardigrades were stored inside a "Lunar Library," a nanotechnology device that resembles a DVD and contains a 30-million-page archive of human history viewable under microscopes, as well as human DNA.

Spivack is confident this too survived impact—but it doesn't represent the first genetic code or life forms to be deposited on the barren celestial body.

That distinction belongs to the DNA and microbes contained in the almost 100 bags of feces and urine left behind by American astronauts during the Apollo lunar landings from 1969-1972.

No rescue mission

Also known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades can live in water or on land, and are capable of surviving temperatures as high as 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit) and as low as minus 272 degrees Celsius (-458 Fahrenheit), albeit for a few minutes.

The grub-like, eight-legged animals can come back from being dried out to a lifeless husk for decades, withstand near-zero pressure in outer space and the crushing depths of the Mariana Trench.

If they did not burn up in an explosion, they could in theory survive the tiny pressure on the lunar surface, and the extremes of temperature, William Miller, a tardigrades expert at Baker University, told AFP.

"But to become active, to grow, eat, and reproduce they would need water, air and food," so it would not be possible for them to multiply and form a colony, he added.

NASA astrobiologist Cassie Conley said that their exact survival time would depend on the condition of the impact site and the temperatures to which they are exposed.

"If they don't get too hot, it's possible they could survive for quite a long time (many years)," she told AFP.

"I'd be more concerned that the animals would be affected by from the epoxy or glue" used to store them, as opposed to conditions in space, she added.

Even if the creatures lived on for several years, there is no crewed mission to the Moon planned until NASA's Artemis program in 2024 at the —far from Beresheet's on the Sea of Serenity, so they probably won't make it home.

"It is unlikely that they will be rescued in time, so my guess is that, even if they survived, they are doomed," Rafael Alves Batista, a physicist at Sao Paulo university who co-authored a 2017 paper on tardigrades' extreme resilience, told AFP.


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User comments

Aug 07, 2019
Well, at least we know exactly what it is that we contaminated the moon with.

Aug 07, 2019
Leave it to man to spoil another world/planet. Will he ever learn. Sad

Aug 07, 2019
So we put indestructible micro organisms... On a surface being radiated constantly... Along with some human DNA.... And we aren't expecting something to combine and create a super being???

Aug 07, 2019
So we put indestructible micro organisms... On a surface being radiated constantly... Along with some human DNA.... And we aren't expecting something to combine and create a super being???

Disregarding the inherent ridiculousness of this statement, it's been about four months since the crash landing and the tardigrades likely died in the first month due to the severe temperature fluctuations on the moon. They are also completely inactive unless in liquid water and, contrary to what view-seeking "articles" say about them, they are not indestructible, invulnerable, or otherwise immortal. They simply can live for a relatively extended period of time in conditions that humans find extreme.

Aug 07, 2019
People watch too much fantasy.

Aug 07, 2019
yeah, people are gullible
tardigrades have become a popular meme
if we still called them sow bugs?
i doubt as to their popularity

the mythbusters did a topic
if cockroaches or other bugs could survive an atomic war?

i do not remember if they specifically tested tardigrades

i think the cockroaches crapped out at about ten thousand roentgens
but even if they did survive the a-bomb?
roaches are tropical bugs
without humans keeping homes warm & providing transportation & food?
the cockroaches would retreat back to warmer climes

the big surprise was that only the flour beetle survived too one hundred thousand roentgens
& they seemed to be doing rather poorly afterwards!

for those whining of government regulators?
try thinking back to your grandmother baking
sifting flour & other bulk products to remove the bug parts & rat droppings

oh, there's still bug parts & rat droppings in your food
what?
you thought the mills bleach flour for it's aesthetic qualities?

Aug 08, 2019
The non-profit is dedicated to spreading backups of human knowledge and Earth's biology throughout the Solar System

Seriously, how stupid are these idiots?

Aug 09, 2019
I suspect that the ravages of high energy gamma-ray photons are the number one issue the little bugs have for long term viability.

Aug 09, 2019
Bah. Another clickbait headline.

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