Tardigrades have been put to the test by scientists trying to discover the tolerance of space conditions of these creatures. The method employed was shooting them out at high speeds, in lab conditions of course.
What are tardigrades?
Tardigrades are micro-animals with eight legs and a segmented body. They are not considered microorganisms because tardigrades are multicellular, unlike unicellular microorganisms. These little beasties are also known as water bears or moss piglets. They have eight pairs of legs with claws.
They have been found in every environment on the planet and survive in the harshest conditions. Either in freezing temperatures, under deep oceans, on top of mountains, and more. Tardigrades enter a state of hibernation when subjected to extremes such as lack of food, under-freezing temperatures, lack of water. This way they can survive for years.
Since resilience is what they are known for tardigrades have been studied extensively to examine just how tough they really are.
A test of resilience
So the test of resilience was set out by placing the microscopic critters in a light gas gun to fire them out of.
This method might conjure up images of cruel scientists experimenting on living creatures. But it might very well explain how life forms could planet-hop.
Also, we might discover if human space travel has already contaminated the cosmos, as people have traveled into space and dumped rubbish on the moon, and into the void of space. That rubbish could have harbored very tough life forms from our planet.
A number of the test subjects were frozen and not fired at high speed so that they may serve as a control group against which to compare. A second group was frozen and then blasted out at a velocity between 0.556 and 1.00-kilometer per second.
The control group took 8 to 9 hours to get back out of hibernation. The blasted group, the ones that survived, took a little longer to recover than the controlled. Increasingly using higher and higher speeds uncovered that at 901 meters per second the tardigrades disintegrated.
This test concluded and left us in awe at the persistence of survivability tardigrades possess. In the right conditions, with a lot of luck, they may survive impacts long enough to make it on the surface of the moon, or some other planet in our solar system. It all depends on the level of radiation they may face, the angle at which they will enter an atmosphere, and where they might land.
More research will surely be conducted to shed even more light on this fascinating concept of microscopic space travelers.