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Rob Sheldon on the chances of the tardigrades (water bears) surviving the recent moon crash


We are informed that there were 30,000 tardigrades in the crashed Israeli moon probe:

The dehydrated tardigrades are probably still alive, Philippe Reekie, an astrobiologist and PhD student at the University of Edinburgh not involved with the mission, tells The Guardian. “I would imagine they would survive for some time,” he says. “The main problem with the moon is the vacuum and the high radiation, but tardigrades are proven to survive those conditions.”

Because the tardigrades are dehydrated, they are in a dormant state. That means if they made it, they are in a tiny ball, with their heads and legs retracted inward and their metabolism at 0.01 percent of their normal rate, BBC reports. It’s not likely they’ll colonize the moon like that; they’d need water to reanimate. But “what it means is the so-called ‘pristine environment’ of the moon has been broken,” Monica Grady, a professor of planetary and space sciences at Open University in the UK, tells BBC.

Ashley Yeager, “Tardigrades May Have Made it to the Moon” at The Scientist

Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon says,

Well, I do think that dormant tardigrades, which could survive for hundreds if not thousands of years in a “freeze-dried” state, can be revived when placed in water. If the spacecraft, Beresheet, had crashed with dormant tardigrades, then most definitely they are scattered about the surface of the Moon, waiting for their resurrection day in water. The Moon is not expected to deliver any water to them for perhaps a billion years when our Sun runs out of hydrogen, goes into red-giant phase and melts the pockets of ice in the Moon’s south pole. And I won’t take bets on their survival for that long.

The Long Ascent: Genesis 1â  11 in Science & Myth, Volume 1 by [Sheldon, Robert]

Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent

See also: Rob Sheldon: What if the “building blocks from space” are really degraded life?

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They must survive because they'll turn up in two or three hundred years as monsters in Star Trek: Discovery Seversky

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