Aug 08, 2019: While India’s Chandrayaan-2 is on its route to Moon’s orbit to "soft-land" on the lunar surface, another similar mission launched by Israel in April this year, couldn’t make it. The Beresheet spacecraft made by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) crashed into the Moon spilling few thousand water bears — also known as Tardigrades — on to the lunar surface, reported the Wired.
As per the report, the Beresheet lander was carrying a "backup" of planet Earth prepared by Nova Spivack’s Arch Mission Foundation that included a lunar library of human knowledge and human DNA samples alongside thousands of microscopic tardigrades, which are known to survive pretty much every environment– including space.
The Arch Mission Foundation’s lunar library is a DVD-sized archive containing high-resolution images of 30 million pages of information compressed into just a few square inches. This archive of human history is viewable under microscopes.
The water bears had been dehydrated and encased in an artificial chamber. The Beresheet robot lander carried the water bears to the Moon– some in amber and some stuck on the tape. But as the lander crashed, the tiny creatures are now stuck on the lunar surface.
For most creatures, there is no coming back from being dehydrated but water bears can be brought back to life decades after being put in such condition. Tardigrades are creatures under a millimetre long that can survive being heated to 150-degrees centigrade as well as being frozen to almost absolute zero.
In 2007, water bears became the first animal to survive in space. Newscientist.com report that a European team of researchers sent a group of living tardigrades to orbit the earth on the outside of a FOTON-M3 rocket for 10 days. When these creatures returned to Earth, the scientists discovered that 68 per cent of them lived through the ordeal.
When the tardigrades are dried out, they retract their heads and their eight legs to shrivel into a tiny ball and enter a deep state of suspended animation that closely resembles death. It shed almost all of the water in its body and its metabolism rate slows down to 0.01 per cent of its normal rate. When the creature is introduced to water at a given point in time, they are able to reanimate.
The co-founder of the Spivack thinks that they are definitely still alive on the Moon. They believe the chances of survival for the tardigrades are extremely high, reported the Wired.
While some researchers are expressing their concern over the spillage of water bears on the Moon, it’s unlikely the creatures will be able to spring back to life without being reintroduced to water. Also, it is theoretically possible for the tardigrades to be collected on a future moon mission, brought back to Earth, and reanimate to study the effects of being on the Moon.
The Beresheet mission control lost communications with the spacecraft when it was about 149 metres above the Moon’s surface. As Israel failed to soft-land on Moon, the list of nations who have accomplished this feat stay at three which includes Russia (the USSR), the United States, and China.
India’s Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to soft-land on the South Pole of the lunar surface on Septemeber 8, 2019. It recently moved into a higher orbit around the Earth, completing five manoeuvres in space since its launch on July 22. It will now prepare to break free from the Earth with a Trans Lunar Insertion manoeuvre on August 14, 2019.