Tardigrades become first animals to be exposed to open space

The open vacuum of space is the epitome of a harsh environment. Aside from the obvious lack of oxygen, there are also the problems of weightlessness, extreme cold and both solar and cosmic radiation. But one group of animals stands a very good chance of surviving these conditions – the tardigrades.

Tardigrades, or water bears, are small, aquatic and unfeasibly cute critters. They’re also strong contenders for the title of world’s hardest animal. They can enter a dry, dormant state that allows them to withstand extreme heat, temperatures close to absolute zero, poisonous gases and radiation doses 300 times greater than what would kill a man.

Over the last two weeks, a group of tardigrades aboard a Russian satellite have been exposed to their toughest challenge yet – the open vacuum of space. The satellite is part of the Tardigrades in Space (TARDIS) project, and it landed back on Earth today. Now, a team of Swedish scientists will see if they survived.

I wrote the story up for the website of the Daily Telegraph. Have a read for more about these extreme survivors. You can also have a look at a video of these animals here.

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5 Responses

  1. What a curious creature, and yet as tough as they come, did it survive the perils of space?

  2. I don’t know yet – Jonsson told me that he’d know fairly soon but he wouldn’t be able to tell me until he’d written up the paper and was on further on the road to publication.

  3. Ah I see, either way the results should make for some interesting reading. If it survived, then it survived space, it it didn’t, space is supreme over all inferior Earth based life :)

  4. Can we find out how this story ended?

    Did they live happily ever after?

  5. Felix – I’m keeping an eye on it. Nothing’s been published yet.

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