Tardigrade Space Program

Tardigrades are a paradox. There are less than 1,000 species globally yet they can survive anything-temperature extremes, starvation, irradiation, dehydration, vacuums, and the pressures of the deep sea. So the obvious question is whether tardigrades can survive space.? The program is called TARDIS (Tardigrades In Space) and you Dr. Who fans will catch the reference. In the words of the TARDIS program…

Why should we send dry aquatic invertebrates into space, an environment that certainly is not normal for these animals?…One would be: to see if these animals, as the first ever, are able to cope with the extremely dry conditions of deep vacuum and the harmful solar and galactic radiation up there. In the past, several biologists have suggested that tardigrades may be one of the few animals that have a chance to come back alive after a trip in real space. Finally we will be able to find out if this is true….At a more mechanistic biological level, exposure of organisms to space conditions will reveal how living cells react to the potentially very stressful impact of space parameters. And organisms that can handle the damaging space parameters will be important sources of knowledge for how to generate the space ecosystems that will be necessary for the more permanent human establishments in space that is envisaged today.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

4 Replies to “Tardigrade Space Program”

  1. hey im a student at highschool, dooing a research project with water bears. i was wondering the best place to get them, or if i can by chance get them from ur guyses project. please contact me at [email protected]

  2. Tardigrades can be recovered from lichens and mosses in your local backyard forest, Mike. Sampling protocols are described here at the Illinois Wesleyan University website below. The site lets you get involved in a larger tardigrade distribution study, if you want.

    You’ll need to use a microscope from school, of course. Let us know how the project turns out, OK? It’s a great idea.


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