Friday, September 12, 2008

Creatures Survive Outerspace

For those wondering if life can exist in the vacuum of space, the New York Times reports that at least one form of life from earth can. Tardigrades are little segmented animals that live in water. Very small, adults only reach a size of about 1.5 mm in length. They're small but successful, they can be found virtually anywhere on earth-from the ocean to the polar regions. According to the article they are commonly called "water bears" but I've never heard of them until now. The European Space Agency sent some of these things up in a spacecraft. Going into low earth orbit (160 miles up) the creatures were divided into two groups. One group was exposed to the vacuum of space but protected from UV rays, while the other was exposed to the vacuum and the UV rays.

The group that was exposed to the vacuum survived, and even some members of the other group survived as well. This makes me think of panspermia, the idea that bacteria could be transported from one planet to another by natural processes spreading life. This research brings to life the possibility that multicellular organisms could be transported as well. Granted only a few survived the harsh radiation environment, but evolution would take care of that and produce some hardy souls that would survive just fine.

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