Crashed Israeli lander may have seeded moon with 'water bears'

07 Août, 2019, 05:07 | Auteur: Therese Cote

When Israel's private lunar lander Beresheet crashed onto the lunar surface, it was carrying a box full of tardigrades-microscopic creatures that are the only known living thing capable of surviving the extreme vacuum of outer space.

The tardigrades, only 0.5mm in length when fully grown, joined the lunar-destined journey as part of an initiative led by the Arch Mission Foundation, founded by Nova Spivack.

The water bears were sent as part of a lunar library that included human DNA samples and 30 million pages of information - all stored on a DVD-sized disc. However, he told the magazine that after analyzing the spacecraft's trajectory and the lunar library's composition, they believe with a good level of confidence that the payload survived the crash-possibly entirely intact.

Engineers lost contact with the spacecraft only minutes before it was due to complete the historic lunar landing on April 11, making a high-velocity crash-landing inevitable.

The spacecraft was budgeted at $100 million (NIS 370 million), a fraction of the cost of vehicles launched to the moon by major powers US, Russia and China in the past.

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"For the first 24 hours, we were just in shock", Spivack said.

Known for their resilience, a 2007 European Space Agency experiment showed that tardigrades are able to survive space exposure. "We have to sort of plan for the worst". They can even survive space. "We knew there were risks but we didn't think the risks were that significant".

These animals can potentially be revived in the future, Spivack said. Research has previously shown that dehydrated micro-animals can be revived decades later. Beresheet was attempting to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon.

If some lunar enthusiasts might have been disappointed by the announcement, SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari told The Jerusalem Post in July that the decision is about broadening their horizons even further.

"We decided that we want to look for different options - maybe to go to the Moon and come back or to take something special with us".

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