Water bears creatures can survive not only incredible pressure variations and supposedly fatal doses of radiation, but even years of being dried out completely cannot kill them.
These utterly incredible creatures, minute and multitudinous on earth, are the hardiest creatures known to man – which these tiny invertebrates dubbed Tardigrades or water bears have yet again proved unequivocally – by surviving in the vacuum of space, as demonstrated by the European Space Agency.
They conducted an experiment, the results of which make these incredible life-forms the first animals ever known to be able to survive the deadly combination of lethal radiation and zero pressure found in space, something previously thought inhospitable to all animal life.
Water bears creatures can survive not only incredible pressure variations and supposedly fatal doses of radiation, but even years of being dried out completely cannot kill them, Living usually in water, two separate, utterly dessicated types of Tardigrades were launched into space from Kazakhstan in September 2007.
Swedish researchers from Kristianstad University were those running the research, which found that, when the satellite returned after 10 days in space, the water bears were retrieved and re-hydrated. The researchers were keen to know how the creatures had fared.
It seems that the airless conditions and lack of pressure had little effect on the creatures in space, though UV radiation, over 1000 times stronger in space, did destroy many of them after full exposure to it. Nonetheless, some did, after re-hydration, revive and even go on to to lay eggs that successfully hatched.
In the past, it had been only Lichens and bacteria that had been found to survive in the hostile environment of space, so finding animals capable of surviving re-hydration – then producing viable embryos – after 10 days in open space is truly astounding, and could possibly be important in considering habitability of other planets.
Exactly how the animals might develop and reproduce in harsh environments is as yet unknown, researchers being as yet un sure what causes water bears to be as resistant as they are, though the adaptations that enable Tardigrades to bounce back from being dried out might play a significant role. The research is certainly promising where space scientists are concerned.