New Scientist has joined the chorus of publications huddling around the cutest space invaders ever. Swedish researchers have just proved that tiny creatures called tardigrades, or “water bears,” survive just fine in the vacuum of space:
The creatures can survive intense pressures, huge doses of radiation, and years of being dried out.
To further test their hardiness, Ingemar Jönsson of Sweden’s Kristianstad University and colleagues launched two species of dried-up tardigrades from Kazakhstan in September 2007 aboard ESA’s FOTON-M3 mission, which carried a variety of experimental payloads.
After 10 days of exposure to space, the satellite returned to Earth. The tardigrades were retrieved and rehydrated to test how they reacted to the airless conditions in space, as well as ultraviolet radiation from the Sun and charged particles from space called cosmic rays.
“No animal has survived open space before,” says developmental biologist Bob Goldstein of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not affiliated with the study. “The finding that animals survived rehydration after 10 days in open space – and then produced viable embryos as well – is really remarkable.”
My favorite part: The lead researcher dubbed the water bear orbital project TARDigrades In Space, or TARDIS.