A Scientist Sent Thousands Of Tardigrades To The Moon

Published on August 11, 2019

For right now, all we know about the universe is that we are the only planet to contain life (at least, that’s what the general public knows). That could change, assuming the thousands of tardigrades sent to the moon by scientist Nova Spivack will survive if they’re re-hydrated sometime over the next decade. That is, if the lunar lander that was transporting the tardigrades didn’t crash land in the Sea of Serenity. Now, Spivack faces a reality where he could have just sprinkled thousands of tardigrades onto the surface of the moon, according to an article that appeared in Wired earlier this month.

Spivack’s Long History In Space Exploration

Launching thousands of tardigrades (microscopic creatures that can go ten years without water and withstand virtually any climate—including space) into space was not Nova Spivack’s first foray into the world of space exploration. The American venture capitalist and tech worker played a role in the development of things like Siri, which he worked on before it was acquired by Apple, and other web operations for companies like AT&T and the New York Stock Exchange, to name a few.

Spivack also c0-founded a company called the Arch Mission Foundation, which aims to archive the entirety of humanity into a virtual library that can be stored remotely in space and accessed if humanity were to ever wipe itself out completely (also with a guide on how to read the information). The company also aims to store human DNA in space so that humanity could one day be restored if need be. The virtual library project, called the Arch Library, has had copies sent into space already with the help of SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk. It’s most recent venture into space was aboard the Beresheet, an Israeli lunar lander created by SpaceIL that hoped to be the first privately-owned lunar lander to land on the moon.

Alongside the first full-sized library (the one sent on the SpaceX Roadster launch was only a partial library) were a couple thousand dehydrated tardigrades. The tiny creatures had been dehydrated and implanted into the resin that surrounded the container that held the library. Unfortunately Beresheet crashed when it landed on the moon, but because it was light, yet durable, Spivack believes that it remains intact even after the crash. Regardless, thousands of tardigrades crash landed on the moon, and they’re going to stay there.

What Does That Mean For The Moon?

Since tardigrades are considered the most resistent creatures on the planet, and have outlasted many other species for hundreds of millions of years, odds are high that they’ll be able to last on the moon for a couple of years—or decades. The creatures can go ten years without water, and can withstand massive bouts of UV radiation from the sun, the coldest temperatures you can imagine, and even survive without oxygen. While NASA doesn’t necessarily condone dropping thousands of indestructible creatures onto the surface of the moon, it says there isn’t much risk involved considering humans have already disrupted the ecosystem by landing there in the first place.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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