What are Tardigrades and are they really polluting Moon?
Tardigrades are one of the toughest and most resilient creatures on Earth. They are expected to be alive on the Moon or in space. But question arises how they reach on Moon or into space? Let us find out!
On April, 2019, an Israeli's Moon mission was failed and the name of the mission was Beresheet. Israeli's non-profit SpaceiL's Beresheet Lander crashed into the moon due to some technical failure. The spacecraft was carrying several items like first lunar library, an archive of DVD that consists of about 30 million pages of information, DNA samples of human, plant cells, animal cells and thousands of Tardigrades. When Beresheet crashed into the space several Tardigrades were released.
What are Tardigrades?
Tardigrades are microscopic animals with long, plump bodies and scrunched up heads. They are also known as water bears or moss piglets. They have eight legs and hands having four to eight claws on each. It is said that these animals are almost indestructible and can even survive in outer space. According to Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are over 1,000 known species within Tardigrade.
Do you know about the Habitat?
Tardigrades or water bears can live anywhere. Basically, they prefer to live in sediment at the bottom of the lake or on other wet environments. And they can also survive in a wide range of temperatures and in tough situations.
Amazing is that research has shown that these Tardigrades can withstand environments as cold as minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit or high of more than 300 degrees F. They can also survive in the radiation, boiling liquids, massive amounts of pressure of up to six times the pressure of the deepest part of the ocean and also in the vacuum of space without any protection.
Note: Tardigrades can survive under pressure of up to 74,000 times the pressure felt on sea level.
Let us tell you that an article was published in 2017 named Nature in which about Tardigrades was mentioned that if all other life forms were to be wiped out by a cataclysmic event, may be a there will be a large asteroid impact, a supernova or gamma-ray bursts but the Tardigrades would likeliest to survive because they can tolerate extreme hot and cold temperature levels.
Even an experiment was performed by the scientists on Tardigrades that is from them water is removed and after several years when water is injected in Tardigrades then are surviving. Tardigrades can with stand gamma radiation, can survive in the lack of oxygen and in the intense blast of solar winds. It is also said that they can survive even without food and water for ten years. So, here we can say that in the moon, Tardigrades will not be affected by solar winds. Therefore, Israeli’s via Beresheet mission want to check that whether Tardigrades can survive on the Lunar surface or not.
Are Tardigrades polluting the atmosphere of Moon?
When the Lander of the Beresheet mission crashed on the Moon with that the container of Tardigrades placed in the Lander also crashed and they came out from the Lander. The container consists of thousands of Tardigrades which are now in the Moon’s atmosphere. Isn’t it! Now scientists are finding and doing research that are Tardigrades able to survive on the Moon’s surface? Some scientists believed that Tardigrades are so resilient that they started polluting moon that is they started reproducing. And some scientists says that most of the Tardigrades that were present in the Israeli’s spacecraft were dehydrated. If they get water in the Moon then only they will be able to revive otherwise they will remain in sleeping mode and in hibernating state.
Now the question arises that in several decades various countries will launch their lunar probes, in fact in September 2019 India’s Chandrayaan-2 will reach the South Pole of the Moon and further various countries like Japan, Russia etc. will also launch their space missions to Moon. So, are these micro animals need to be send into the space, this is the main concern. Are they generating human beings interplanetary pollution? Also, it is said that when we send such type of micro organisms into the space then the native organisms that are already present in the space are affected by them or not. So, various scientists are demanding that there should be a treaty in which it should be mentioned that no country can send any micro organisms into the space until and unless worldwide consensus is developed. So, it is necessary to be approved by scientific organisations.
So, we can say that Tardigrades that are surviving on the earth since several years will be able to survive on Moon or not and whether we have given Moon another alien in the form of Tardigrades.
Some interesting facts about Tardigrades
- In 1773, Tardigrades were discovered by a German pastor, Johann August Ephraim Goeze.
- Johann August named them Tardigrade which means 'slow stepper".
- Tardigrades look like hookah-smoking caterpillar and range from 0.05 millimetres to 1.2 mm (0.002 to 0.05 inches) long. But usually, they don't get bigger than 1mm (0.04 inches) long.
- Italian clergyman and biologists Lazzaro Spallanzani in 1776 discovered that water bears can survive in extreme conditions by making a transformation.
- Many times, Tardigrades survive by going into an almost death-like state known as cryptobiosis.
- They retract their heads and legs and curl into a dehydrated ball known as tun.
- If Tardigrades are reintroduced to water then they can come back to life in just few hours.
- In Cryptobiosis the metabolic activity of Tardigrades get as low as 0.01 percent of normal levels. At this time their organs are protected by a sugary gel known as trehalose.
- It is also seem that they generate large amount of antioxidants which is the another way to protect their vital organs.
- According to the University of Tokyo, Tardigrades also produce a protein that protects their DNA from radiation damage.