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Small invertebrates, considered to be the most enduring creatures on earth, were on board the Israeli lunar rover Bereshit, which crashed on landing in April this year. The mission leader is convinced that they survived.
The American entrepreneur and innovator Nova Spivak, head of the biological project “Mission Ark”, which in collaboration with SpaceIL and the Israeli aviation industry carried out an experiment and sent tardigrades to the moon and placed them on board an Israeli vehicle, is completely safe. that they survived the crash and are now on the surface of the earth’s satellite.
These are the only creatures known to science that can survive freezing to absolute zero and heating to 150 degrees Celsius, strong radiation, lack of oxygen and water, and can survive for many years and even decades. Tardigrades do not adapt to extreme conditions, but end up in cryptobiosis – deep dormancy. In this state, much like death, vital activity stops, their metabolism drops to 0.01% of normal.
With a size of less than 1 millimeter, the “water bear” has a head and eight legs. Under difficult conditions, the animal loses both head and limbs, but can then regenerate them.
Rolled up in amber and tape
Tardigrade can be dried. Once dehydrated in its cells, water is replaced with protein, which keeps the cell viable. To then revive an invertebrate animal (genetically close to roundworm), a few drops of water are enough.
In a state of cryptobiosis, hundreds of tardigrades were placed by scientists aboard the Bereshit spacecraft. Some of them were melted into artificial amber, some were glued to Kapton tape, which can withstand large temperature fluctuations.
“We are convinced that the chances of surviving tardigrades [на поверхности Луны] extremely high, “said Spivak.
His foundation is a reserve collection of the gene pool of living beings on our planet, which sends bio-samples to various places in the solar system so that there is a chance to revive them in the event of a sudden catastrophe on Earth.
Bereshita also flew to the moon a bank of scientific data on the history of mankind and the structure of human DNA, recorded on a disk with a volume similar to 30 million pages of paper.
Because the “water bears” successfully survived an experiment in outer space as early as 2007, they became the best – and only – candidates to participate in the Mission Ark project.
“Tardigrades are perfect for this task – they are microscopic, multicellular and one of the toughest creatures on earth,” says Nova Spivak.
But it is unlikely that the tardigrades that fell on the moon’s surface during the Bereshita accident spread over it and explored lunar craters. They need contact with water to wake up from sleep.
It is theoretically possible for any landing on the moon in the future to collect pieces of amber and adhesive film with tardigrades, bring them back to earth and study the consequences of being on the moon for a living organism.
After previous experiments with space walks, tardigrades have even produced healthy offspring.