Whom among us hasn’t secretly included a thousand live tardigrades on a lunar lander that subsequently crash-landed on the moon, surrendering them unto the cold alienation of the moon’s (previously) lifeless surface? Arch Mission Foundation founder Nova Spivack certainly has, after he smuggled a bunch of dehydrated tardigrades aboard the Beresheet lunar probe, which fucked itself into the moon back in April.
The Beresheet probe was launched by private aerospace company SpaceIL and aimed to be the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. Courtesy of the Arch Mission Foundation, the probe was carrying a ‘lunar library’ — 25 tightly packed nickel disks inscribed with over 30 million pages of data about human civilisation. Thanks to Spivack, that library contained something else as well: Between those layers of nickel were thousands of tardigrades packed in epoxy resin.
Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are somewhat-fucked-looking micro-animals that are famous for being able to survive just about anything. They are extremely difficult to starve, dehydrate, or suffocate, and are resistant to extreme temperatures and pressures, even being able to survive in the vacuum of space, which is why they were chosen.
You might well have seen extremely large versions of these creatures either in Ant-Man and the Wasp or in Star Trek: Discovery (or both):
Seemingly just because he could, Spivack decided to throw the creatures in at the last minute, not even telling SpaceIL that they were on board, he told Mashable: “We didn’t tell them we were putting life in this thing. Space agencies don’t like last-minute changes. So we just decided to take the risk … we did it in a way where there would be absolutely no risk of any contamination outside of our payload, which was sealed and in a vacuum.”
Having calculated the trajectory of the lander at the time of the crash and knowing the structure, Spivack reckons they’re likely still alive, telling Agency France-Presse that the chances are “extremely high”.
Currently all sorts of questions are being asked about both the legality and ethics of introducing life forms to the moon, even if it seems unlikely they they will be able to impact it in any way. My money is on the moon being dominated by 10-foot tardigrades by the year 2030.Image: Getty Images / dottedhippo