Finding life on the moon just got a whole lot more probable. In April, a privately funded Israeli spacecraft crashed into the moon, likely spilling thousands of tardigrades, or “water bears” — microscopic organisms that can survive life in space.
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. The disc, which was put together by Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit that “maintains a backup of planet Earth,” was sent to the moon on Beresheet, a lunar lander. Beresheet was attempting to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon.
While it’s not completely certain, the Arch Mission Foundation is quite confident that the lunar library was ejected from the spacecraft but survived the crash — meaning the water bears are probably up there… somewhere.
However, even though the water bears are likely now on the moon, they’ll have to be taken somewhere with an atmosphere to be rehydrated and potentially brought back to life. The creatures can enter dormant states where metabolic processes stop and the water in their cells is replaced by a protein. Wired reports that scientists have been able to successfully rehydrate tardigrades after they’ve been living in a dehydrated state for up to 10 years, but that they may be able to be revived after even longer periods of dormancy.
Nova Spivack, who founded the Arch Mission Foundation and sent the lunar library and space bears to the moon, says his company wants to send more human DNA and DNA from endangered species to the moon in future missions.
“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 told Wired. “We have to sort of plan for the worst.”