Last night I caught about 5 minutes of the Spike show Manswers (potentially NSFW) and they asked, “How long could you survive in space without a spacesuit?” The correct answer was 1.5 minutes. According to Manswers, no human has ever been subjected to space without a suit; however, astronauts did throw dogs into the void of space “for science.” Surprisingly, pooches do not fare any better than we humans do.
What Manswers didn’t mention was water bears, or Tardigrade. Tardigrade are eight-legged animals about 1cm 2mm long that live in water. These strange little creatures are all over the place, but I don’t remember learning about them in school. I wish I had because Tardigrade are freaks of nature! They make Biology sound interesting ;)
From the wikipedia article: “Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures close to absolute zero, temperatures as high as 151°C (303°F), 1,000 times more radiation than any other animal, nearly a decade without water, and even the vacuum of space.”
I actually found out about water bears through an interesting article on Wired, Invertebrate Astronauts Make Space History, about water bears surviving in space without any protection. Basically, scientists put Tardigrade in a box, strapped it to a satellite, and let the little guys orbit the Earth. The water bears survived based on amazing biological processes like 1) slowing their metabolism down to 1/10,000 the normal rate and 2) repairing cellular damage caused by cosmic radiation. One day, scientists may even know how water bears do it; until then, bask in the glory of Tardigrade:
If you look closely you’ll see the little guy is smiling. We can only assume he’s saying, “I am biologically superior to billions of other species!