Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Tardigrades In Outer Space

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Tardigrades In Outer Space - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Tardigrades are the first known animal to survive after exposure to outer space. In September 2007, dehydrated tardigrades were taken into low Earth orbit on the FOTON-M3 mission carrying the BIOPAN astrobiology payload. For 10 days, groups of tardigrades, some of them previously dehydrated, some of them not, were exposed to the hard vacuum of outer space, or vacuum and solar UV radiation. Back on Earth, over 68% of the subjects protected from solar UV radiation were reanimated within 30 minutes following rehydration, although subsequent mortality was high; many of these produced viable embryos. In contrast, hydrated samples exposed to the combined effect of vacuum and full solar UV radiation had significantly reduced survival, with only three subjects of Milnesium tardigradum surviving. In May 2011, Italian scientists sent tardigrades on board the International Space Station along with extremophiles on STS-134, the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Their conclusion was that microgravity and cosmic radiation “did not significantly affect survival of tardigrades in flight, and stated that tardigrades represent a useful animal for space research.” In November 2011, they were among the organisms to be sent by the U.S.-based Planetary Society on the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission’s Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment to Phobos; however, the launch failed. In August 2019, scientists reported that a capsule containing tardigrades in a cryptobiotic state may have survived for a while on the Moon after the April 2019 crash landing of Beresheet, a failed Israeli lunar lander.

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