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Crashed Israeli lunar lander left a bunch of microscopic ‘water bears’ on the Moon

August 6th, 2019 at 11:33 PM
tardigrades moon lander

It’s been a few months now since Israel’s Beresheet lunar lander experienced a last-second glitch and smashed into the Moon rather than landing softly on it. The mission, while impressive as a privately-funding effort, ultimately came up short, but part of its payload may still fulfill its intended purpose.

Included on the spacecraft was a cellular “library” that includes plant and animal cells and human DNA. It was created by the Arch Mission, which strives to create “backups” of Earth, and the collection of material included on the Beresheet lander contains “enough DNA to regenerate life on Earth,” according to founder Nova Spivack.

The payload also contained complete animals, specifically the microscopic creatures known as tardigrades. Also known as “water bears,” tardigrades are able to withstand extreme conditions and are even capable of being frozen solid and then revived decades later. They’re incredible creatures, and the Beresheet lander was carrying many of them.

https://twitter.com/novaspivack/status/1158640045223342080

The tardigrades were dehydrated prior to being included in the cellular library, and as Spivack notes it’s hard to imagine any cells enduring space radiation in an unprotected place like the Moon.

If the Moon lander had made a soft landing as intended, the library of cells would have remained within the spacecraft indefinitely. However, the crash has complicated matters, but Spivack and the Arch Mission believe the DVD-sized payload may have endured the impact without being destroyed.

If that is indeed the case, it doesn’t necessarily change anything about what the Arch Mission was trying to accomplish. The idea isn’t to somehow spark life on the Moon, but rather to have some kind of a record of life on Earth stored elsewhere, and the Moon is as good a place as any.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.




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