While speculation runs rampant when it comes to life on other planets, people don't typically talk about the possibility of life on the moon. After all, mankind has visited its lunar neighbor several times since Neil Armstrong and company first landed there in 1969, with no sign of any life forms. But that may have all changed, thanks to the bizarre-looking micro-animals known as tardigrades. It turns out that thousands of the microscopic creatures, also referred to by the nicknames "water bears" and "moss piglets," were aboard Israel's Beresheet lunar lander. Unfortunately, the mission failed with the crash landing of the vehicle in 2019. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the tardigrades bit the dust. One reason tardigrades were added to the mission was their ability to survive in all kinds of conditions, from freezing and boiling to the vacuum of space. The only trouble for the tardigrades is that they were dehydrated for the voyage, with all metabolic activity put on hold, so unless they come in contact with some water, they aren't likely to be living it up on the moon in the near future.
A tiny peek at tiny tardigrades:
- In a 2017 study, scientists determined that tardigrades could survive numerous apocalyptic scenarios on Earth, including asteroid impacts and supernova blasts.
- To survive perilous situations, tardigrades go into a death-like state called cryptobiosis, from which they can return to life in a matter of hours.
- Tardigrades are believed to have existed on Earth for 600 million years. They first appeared roughly 370 million years before dinosaurs roamed the planet.