MEET MY LITTLE FRIEND
Let me introduce you to a tiny eight-legged microscopic animal which you probably don’t know, or care, anything about … the Tardigrade (also known as moss piglets or water bears because of their stocky bodies and gait).
Image caption: A colored scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade in moss
Photo Credit: Science Photo Library - Photo source: psbbc.com/news/tardigrade
Water bears aren’t very cute (unless you like really weird things) and, at less than a millimeter, these animals do not make good pets, although they would be easy to care for. Studies show that these small invertebrates originally lived in freshwater environments before adapting to land where they seek out moist habitats such as soil, mosses, leaves and lichen. They are ubiquitous, and live almost everywhere in the world including Antarctica and the deepest oceans.
Water bears are small, cylindrical invertebrates, divided into five segments. The first segment contains the head and the next four each have one pair of unsegmented legs ending (most often) in claws.
The tardigrade body is covered with a flexible cuticle, which is smooth or covered with gibbosities, spines or plates. Despite being so small, they have a very complicated internal structure. Water bears have a complete digestive system, a well developed nervous system, and an abdominal chain with segmental ganglia. They also have various sensory organs like papilla, chemoreceptors and eyes. Water bears can be dioecious and bisexual.
Photo source: bbc.co.uk/nature/ (Looks too much like corona virus to me)
Image caption: They shouldn't be cute, but we don't make the rules
Photo Credit: Getty Images -
Photo Source: psbbc.com/news/tardigrade.▼
This is when scientists discovered that tardigrades, in their desiccated state, are exceptionally tolerant of extreme environments, including space. Obviously the toughest animals on earth, this discovery prompted a new level of research on their survival capabilities.
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I call the tardigrade my little friend because he is a secondary character in a murder mystery I’m writing which takes at the South Pole.
After the tardigrade’s second venture into space, researchers discovered that a tardigrade protein named Dsup binds to chromatin -- DNA inside cells -- and forms a protective cloud against extreme survival threats such as radiation damage. They have also proved vulnerable to excessive heat, which may turn out to be their Achilles’ Heel. They are not indestructible.
Another notable achievement of water bears was their successful revival and reproduction after being frozen for over 30 years. “A moss sample collected in Antarctica in Nov. 1983, stored at -20°C, was thawed in May 2014. Two individuals and a separate egg retrieved from the thawed sample were revived, thereby providing the longest record of survival for tardigrades as animals or eggs. Subsequently, one of the revived tardigrades and the hatchling repeatedly reproduced after recovering from their long-term cryptobiosis.” sciencedaily.com/releases/2016
BEARS ON THE MOON
Since out last visit with the water bear (which is not really related to any bear-type animal), they have immigrated to the Moon.
Quite true, although the word immigrate makes it sound like they had a choice. Their presence violates the Outer Space Treaty which provides for, among other things like not putting nuclear weapons in space, not contaminating any environment in space. One hundred and nine countries are party to the agreement and another twenty-three have signed but not yet ratified.
The Arch Mission Foundation
There is a non-profit organization called The Arch Mission Foundation which keeps a "backup" of planet Earth; the archives of human knowledge and species of the plant earths biology the planet's biology, stored and sent out to various solar locations in case of a life-ending event.
This was news to me, and I think it is very exciting.
LEO LIBRARY: CONSTELLATION 1 (SPACECHAIN, 2018) ►
SpaceChain launched a cubesat containing a live blockchain node into low-Earth orbit. Onboard is a copy of the English Wikipedia in solid-state storage, provided by the Arch Mission Foundation.
The first major installation of the Lunar Library is a 30 million page archive(viewable under a microscope) that flew on the SpaceIL Beresheet Moon lander, in 2019: It is now believed to be intact on the Moon.
The Arch Mission Foundation is delivering the second installment in the Lunar Library,™ containing additional content, in an upcoming mission with Astrobotic to the lunar surface.
“On April 11, 2019, an Israeli lander named after the Hebrew word for “Genesis” attempted to mark a new beginning for space exploration by becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to touch down on the moon. Built by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL, the Beresheet lander tried to softly land within Mare Serenitatis, a vast volcanic basin on the moon's northern near side - but as it made its descent, the spacecraft's main engine failed. Engineers reset the spacecraft but lost communications, and the 330-pound lander ultimately crashed.”
Along with the second installment of the library and some equipment, the Beresheet carried human DNA and dehydrated tardigrades - some in amber and some stuck on tape. It is believe that all the contents of the lander survived the crash, which means there are now dehydrated tardigrades on the moon which could probably be revived with the introduction of some water.
So the water bears are there, shriveled into tiny balls and in a state of deep suspended animation that resembles death, waiting. In the meantime, SpaceIL has violated the Outer Space Treaty.
I predict that the tardigrade has a bright future in research for years to come.