Crashed Israeli lunar lander could have spilled 'water bears' on moon
Tardigrades – commonly called "water bears" – were among the payload of an Israeli lunar lander that crashed into the moon in April.
- An Israeli spacecraft carrying tiny animals called tardigrades crashed onto the moon in April.
- It's unclear whether humans would be able to revive the tardigrades, which were in a dehydrated state.
- Tardigrades have a unique protein that enables them to survive intense levels of radiation.
There are no humans currently on the moon. But it's very possible that other Earthly animals exist right now on the lunar surface, following the crash of an Israeli lander in April.
The washing-machine-sized spacecraft – Aerospace Industries' Beresheet – was on a mission to deposit what was basically a digital time capsule on the moon. It contained a primer on humanity and its achievements: thousands of books, DNA samples, textbooks and the secrets to David Copperfield's magic tricks. It also contained thousands of dehydrated tardigrades – microscopic animals, commonly called "water bears," known for being able to survive extreme conditions that prove fatal for nearly all other known lifeforms.
But on April 11, 2019, Beresheet's gyroscopes failed and it crashed into the moon.
"For the first 24 hours we were just in shock," Nova Spivack, found of Arch Mission Foundation, which seeks to create "a backup of planet Earth," told Wired. "We sort of expected that it would be successful. We knew there were risks but we didn't think the risks were that significant."
The team knew the lander was toast. But subsequent analyses revealed that the lunar library likely survived the crash, meaning the tardigrades might have too. Tardigrades possess the rare ability to essentially stop their metabolism and enter a dormant, desiccated state. Although these tiny creatures only live for a few months, some have been put into a dormant state for 10 years and then were successfully revived. One was even revived after 30 years.
Tardigrades have also survived in this state in space – the first animal to do so. In 2007, Russian astronauts exposed groups of tardigrades to the vacuum and intense radiation of low-Earth orbit for 10 days. Back on Earth, scientists successfully revived 68 percent of the tardigrades. In 2011, an Italian crew conducted a similar experiment, finding that cosmic radiation "did not significantly affect survival of tardigrades in flight, confirming that tardigrades represent a useful animal for space research."
How are they able to withstand such intense levels of radiation? In a 2016 study published in Nature Communications, researchers found that tardigrades express a unique protein – called "Dsup" – that effectively shields DNA from radiation. Surprisingly, it may be possible to someday give astronauts this rare ability.
"Once Dsup can be incorporated into humans, it may improve radio-tolerance," geneticist Takekazu Kunieda, co-author of the 2016 study, told Gizmodo. "But at the moment, we'd need genetic manipulations to do this, and I don't think this will happen in the near future."
It's unclear whether the tardigrades on the moon survived the crash, and, if so, whether humans will be able to revive them. But given the extreme places where tardigrades have survived and been discovered, it's definitely possible.
Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.
- Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
- Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
- "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Scientists make an important discovery for the future of computing.
- Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
- The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
- Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.
Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.
- The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
- The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
- While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
As tempting as it may be to run away from emotionally-difficult situations, it's important we confront them head-on.
- Impossible-sounding things are possible in hospitals — however, there are times when we hit dead ends. In these moments, it's important to not run away, but to confront what's happening head-on.
- For a lot of us, one of the ways to give meaning to terrible moments is to see what you can learn from them.
- Sometimes certain information can "flood" us in ways that aren't helpful, and it's important to figure out what types of data you are able to take in — process — at certain times.