There Are Now Tardigrades On The Moon: What’s Next?

Following the recent lunar crash of an Israeli Moon lander containing thousands of them as cargo, tardigrades may now be living on the Moon itself.

That is, if they survived the impact of the crash. Provided that they did however, what happens next?

Small But Sturdy

To be able to survive a crash landing that most humans wouldn’t be able to survive would require the tardigrades to be tough creatures. Luckily, they are. In fact, they’re known to be the toughest creatures to ever live on our planet.

Also known as water bears, tardigrades are multi-footed microscopic creatures that are notoriously tough and live on every continent on Earth.

Thousands of them are included as cargo on the Israeli Moon mission Beresheet. However, these few thousand are all in a tun state, which means that their metabolic activity have all been temporarily suspended, in addition to them being dehydrated. Nevertheless, the unexpected lunar crash may have scattered them all over the surface, alive or not.

Thankfully, no one is trouble for accidentally letting loose some tardigrades on the Moon since a decades-old treaty ensures that as long as it’s not a weapon or technology that can disrupt missions from other agencies, it can be left in the Moon. And tardigrades aren’t either of those.

Moon Inhabitants

Per a report from the European Space Agency, tardigrades can survive in very harsh conditions (be it boiling, freezing, or high pressure) when in a tun state, meaning that some of them may have actually survived the crash.

"My guess is that if we went up in the next year or so, recovered the wreckage, and found these tiny, little tuns and put them in water, a few of them would come back to life," Mark Martin, an associate professor of biology at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, said.

And even if they survived, the chances of them waking up from their state anytime soon are highly unlikely. Furthermore, they wouldn’t last very long on the Moon after.

moon-1527501_960_720 A photo of Earth's moon. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)