The Israeli spacecraft that crashed on the moon spilled microscopic 'water bears' that can live in space

American Museum of Natural HistoryA tardigrade, the 0.05-inch creature that’s likely living on the moon right now.
  • The private Israeli spacecraft Beresheet spilled its payload when it crash landed on the moon in April.
  • It was carrying tardigrades, microscopic critters that can live in extreme conditions ⁠- including space.
  • Nova Spivack, the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, which designed the archive holding the tardigrades, told Wired they’re likely still alive.
  • He said the container holding them likely wasn’t destroyed on the crash impact.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Before its crash in April, Beresheet was supposed to be the first private aircraft to land on the moon.

The lunar lander, run by the Israeli space company SpaceIL, was designed to measure the moon’s magnetic field and carry a time capsule to leave on the celestial body.

That time capsule, created by the Arch Mission Foundation, carried a library that contained textbooks, nearly all of the English Wikipedia, works of classic literature, and human DNA samples.

It also included thousands of tardigrades, microscopic critters also known as “water bears.” And according to Arch Mission Foundation founder Nova Spivack, they’re still alive.

“Our payload may be the only surviving thing from that mission,”Spivack told Wired.

Read more:
A group of tardigrades crashed into the moon in April. The indestructible critters could still be alive.

Tardigrades can live in extreme conditions, including space. In a last-minute decision, the Arch Mission Foundation dehydrated the tardigrades and put them in resin along with the nickel engravings that included the rest of the time capsule library’s data. Spivack told Wired the resin should be strong enough so that the library shouldn’t have broken or melted even as Beresheet landed on the moon.

“Our job, as the hard backup of this planet, is to make sure that we protect our heritage – both our knowledge and our biology,” Spivack said. “We have to sort of plan for the worst.”

It’s good news for the tardigrades. Those “water bears” are basically indestructible, and can be rehydrated and revived even after a decade of being dormant. As Business Insider previously reported, as long as they aren’t in direct sunlight, there’s a good chance they’re still alive.

“Tardigrades in dry state can survive pressures up to 74,000 times the pressure we experience at sea level, so the [crash] impact should not be a problem for them,” evolutionary zoologist Roberto Guidetti told Business Insider. “They can stay dry for decades, potentially centuries.”

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