exposed to the sun, the moon, and the whole army of heaven, whom they loved and served and followed, to whom they turned and bowed down. They may not be gathered for burial. They will crap on the ground. Jeremiah 8: 2 (The Israel Bible ™)
The Israeli starship Beresheet is perhaps living up to its name in an unexpected manner; by bringing life to the moon in the form of almost indestructible animals called Tardigrades, also known as "water bears" or "moose piglets".
The Beresheet Lunar Module was a glorious effort that was almost successful. After eight years and $ 95 million it failed in its last moments when it crashed on the lunar surface at a speed of over 300 miles per hour on April 11.
The mission was thought to be a complete loss.
But scientists announced this week that there may have been survivors; Moose pig, a microtier, in a cryptobiotic (dehydrated) state.
The Moose piglets were brought aboard the Moon Landlord by the Arch Mission Foundation (AMF). Nova Spivack and Nick Slavin founded AMF in 2015 with the goal of creating multiple redundant memory for human knowledge around the solar system. To this end, AMF built a special payload of the "Lunar Library" for Beresheet, which contained a DVD-size archive with 25 thin nickel plates and an amazing 30 million pages of information. Almost retrospectively, Spivak inserted a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer containing human DNA samples and several thousand dehydrated tardigrads on a piece of tape.
Tardigrades are eight-legged, segmented aquatic animals (about 0.5 mm long).
They are commonly referred to as water bears. They are among the most resilient animals in existence, almost everywhere, even in the most extreme environments. Withstands extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air withdrawal, radiation, dehydration and hunger. Tardigrads have survived all five mass mortality events that have occurred in Earth's history.
Moss piglets are one of the few species groups that are able to interrupt their metabolism.
You can live without food or water for more than 30 years to feed, feed and multiply later. In 2007, a NASA experiment found that Tardigrades were the first known animal to survive in space. After dehydration, a series of tardigrades were transferred to an underground orbit. They were exposed to the harsh vacuum of space and solar radiation for ten days. After rehydration on the soil, more than 68 percent of subjects resurrected within 30 minutes of rehydration and were able to reproduce. Scientists have revived Tardigrades after more than ten years in this dehydrated state
. Because of their incredible durability, they were selected by the Arch Mission Foundation as passengers on board the Israeli Moon Mission.
In an interview with Wired Spivack announced that a review of its team of experts revealed that the library could have survived the crash unscathed. And the tardigrades too. "Ironically, our payload may be the only survivor of this mission," Spivack said Wired .
Spivack assured the public that there is no reason to worry about Tardigrades taking over the moon.
To survive, the tardigrades from beresheet must be rehydrated in an atmospheric location. The possibility of space missions that infect other planets is a real problem and is the responsibility of the NASA Office of Planetary Protection. Missions destined for places like Mars where life can survive and possibly already exist are subject to rigorous sterilization processes. Missions to the Moon do not exist because they consider the possibility of survival or infection to be minimal or non-existent. As a result of this policy, Apollo missions have left several hundred sacks of human droppings on the lunar surface.
Even the robust little moose pig could not survive on the moon, but could travel from one planet to another, another called panspermia, was the subject of much speculation. Panspermia is the hypothesis that life exists throughout the universe, distributed by meteoroids or, as in the case of tardigrades on the moon, by spacecraft. Proponents of the theory suggest that surviving organisms could become active and begin to colonize their new environment. Evidence supporting this theory has been found on meteoroids and is considered a valid option by many scientists. Panspermia does not suspect the origin of life, but only how it spreads throughout the universe.
Interestingly, the low tardigrade was the subject of sci-fi panspermia.
A segment of the 2017 Star Trek: Discovery series produced by Netflix contained a vitally important Tardigrade character as an essential element for interstellar spore propulsion. Like its micro-origins, the tardigrade of the Federation was virtually indestructible and could transition to a crypto-biotic state. Star Trek recognized the impressive nature of Tardigrade and killed dozens of Klingons. In the end, the Tardigrade was released into space to roam the cosmos.
Although moon tardigrades are a clear case of artificial panspermia, there is little chance outside of science fiction that the tardigrades from beresheet could rehydrate and multiply. Unless, of course, the crash has caused it to fly in the direction of the astronaut poo's pockets.