Earth's Toughest Creatures May Have Made The Moon Their Home
Indestructible yet tiny little critters known as 'water bears' or 'moss piglets' were inside an Israeli spacecraft that crashed on the moon in April and experts believe they're almost definitely still alive.
The Beresheet probe was loaded with the tiny tardigrades -- as they're officially called -- as well as human DNA samples and was supposed to be the first private lander to touch down on the moon.
Controllers lost contact with the robotic craft and it ploughed into the surface, spilling its contents across the landscape.
But despite the disaster landing, the co-founder of the organisation that put the tardigrades there thinks they survived.
"We believe the chances of survival for the tardigrades... are extremely high," Arch Mission Foundation boss Nova Spivack said, according to the BBC.
But alive doesn't necessarily mean living and breathing.
The water bears, which are less than one millimetre long, were dehydrated when they were sent up.
For most creatures, that means they're dead because life without water isn't possible, but not these troopers.
In what's been dubbed as a 'superpower' by many, tardigrades are known to enter dormant states where they retract their heads and legs and shrivel in a ball.
At the same time, their metabolism slows to 0.01 percent of the normal rate and the water in their cells is replaced by a protein that effectively turns the cells into glass.
If they're reintroduced to water months, years or decades later, they can become active again and feed and reproduce as normal.
It basically means there is almost zero chance of them taking over the moon.
“They cannot colonise the moon because there is no atmosphere and no liquid water,” expert Lukasz Kaczmarek from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań told the Guardian.
“But it could be possible to bring them back to Earth and then add the water. They should resurrect.”
In doing so, it could give humans more information about life on the moon.
Kaczmarek is now looking at whether the ageing process stops when the critter is dormant.
“It may be that we can use this in the future if we plan missions to different planets because we will need to be young when we get there," he said.
Sort of like this but smaller and without the ice: