I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the ever resilient tardigrades. Have we ever done studies to see how they would fair in a space environment or any other neat studies, perhaps aboard the ISS? If so, what were the experiments done, and what were the results? I know there's a topic about experimentation with life aboard the ISS, but in general I want to know if we've ever considered sending them to another planet, or anything else.

As these are the most resilient forms of life we know, have we tried studying them in one of the most unforgiving environments we know? Have we ever considered them for being the first astronauts to land on another planet?

Question inspired by a joke I made in a comment: Personally, I think we should just get handfuls of water-bears and a mini rail-gun. Then we should aim the bio-rail-gun at random planets during fly-by's and shoot the water-bears at the planets. But... I'm not really qualified to be saying that.

  • $\begingroup$ Have a look at the last part of the physiology section of the wikipedia page that you are linking to: The answer is yes. $\endgroup$
    – henning
    Oct 10 '18 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @henning that entire section on FOTON-M (1 through 12) have some crazy missions for biology: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadezhda_(cockroach) My main question was more towards what were the findings on them and are we going to send them somewhere else? I never knew about the FOTON missions at all. $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '18 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/10838/… $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '18 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh On the other hand, this question might be of interest for astrobiologists because the water bear could be a threat for non teresstrial native live forms. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Oct 11 '18 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ I've made this topic regardless: space.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1069/… Discussions can resume there, and feel free to make edits to the meta question if I didn't capture this correctly. $\endgroup$ Oct 11 '18 at 14:07

They have been flown on the FOTON-M3 mission...

In 2007, three projects were conducted during the FOTON-M3 mission studies. The Tardigrade Resistance to Space Effects (TARSE) Project was the first one involved in the mission of FOTON-M3. Its aim was to analyse the impact of environmental stress, life history traits and DNA damages in space (on board the spacecraft) on eutardigrade Paramacrobiotus richtersi (Murray, 1911). In this project active and anhydrobiotic tardigrades were exposed to radiation in microgravity conditions. Both active and inactive individuals had high survival rates with no induction of HSPs while showing an induction of the antioxidant response (Rebecchi et al. 2009c, 2010b, 2011a). The next project involved in the mission of FOTON-M3 was TARDIS (Tardigrada In Space). The main goal of this project was to check whether tardigrades from two species, Milnesium tardigradum Doyère, 1840 and Richtersius coronifer (Richters, 1903), were able to survive conditions of open space. The experiments showed that tardigrades can survive exposure to the space vacuum, but the addition of factors such as ultraviolet solar radiation, ionising solar radiation and galactic cosmic radiation significantly reduced their survival rate (Jönsson, et al. 2008). In the third project from the FOTON-M3 mission, RoTaRad (Rotifers, Tardigrades and Radiation), scientists examined effects on initial survival, long-term survival and fecundity of selected species of limno-terrestrial tardigrades in extreme stress conditions (mainly cosmic radiation) (Persson et al. 2011).

and on the shuttle/ISS....

Next was the Endeavour mission in 2011 and the project TARDIKISS (Tardigrades in Space). The main aim of this project was to broaden our knowledge of life history traits and mechanisms of repairing structural DNA damage during exposure to space flight stresses (Rebecchi et al. 2011b; Vukich et al. 2012). The first results showed that microgravity and cosmic radiation did not significantly affect the survival rate of tardigrades (Rebecchi et al. 2011b; Vukich et al. 2012). However, Rizzo et al. (2015) showed a significant difference in activities of ROS scavenging enzymes, the total content of glutathione and the fatty acid composition between tardigrades sent into space and control animals on Earth.


Additional info on the shuttle/ISS TARDIKISS experiments here.

  • $\begingroup$ TARDIKISS hah... any known proposals to try and inject them onto another body? Even an asteroid? $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '18 at 14:58
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Not that I'm aware of. "Planetary protection" protocols would probably prevent anything like that, although it is a contentious subject, and one I am not familiar with. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_protection $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '18 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know if the TARDIKISS experiment container was bigger on the inside? $\endgroup$ Oct 11 '18 at 21:24

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