For organisms to survive space exposure, there are certain physiognomies that are needed like high tolerances for radiation and extreme cold or freezing conditions. Only organisms generally known as extremophiles can survive in such conditions. Examples of these organisms are Archea, Rotifera, some species of Bacteria and Nematoda, some Arhtropods and Tardigrada. The Tardigrades or water bears are known to be the most robust in the planet and are unique in the extremophile list.
What are tardigrades?
Tardigrades, commonly called water bears, are minute animals. They are only 50-2,100 um in length. They live in several earth environments. When these minute creatures were identified with very high resistance to the various stress factors that come along with space travel, tardigrades have become the perfect prototype for space research. Another factor is their complex structure that is very easy to observe.
This creature has been a focus of astrobiologists earning them a ride to space and the International Space Station (ISS).
Water Bears and Space Experiments
Under the sponsorship of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had a study named BIOKIS – TARDIKISS included in its BIOKon In Space (BIOKIS) program. The study aimed to provide countermeasures that are needed to safeguard sensitive organisms, and this includes humans that cannot handle the extreme conditions of space.
It is foreseen that the study can provide information of aging and human life through engineering tissues and cells as use for countermeasures of aging and radiation.
The experiments in space will be made through dosimeters placed in a BIOKIS BIOCON container.
Some more info on the study are:
- Tardigrades showed high post-flight survival rate. They were not affected by gravity or radiation.
- Females laid eggs that had no change from those on earth. They were of normal shape and able to hatch without difficulty.
- Newborns were also normal and laid normal eggs when they matured.
Other results of the study will be released by NASA soon.
Have an experiment with the water bears? Order online tardigrades now.