The tardigrade It is a strange microscopic animal with a squat, eight-legged body that possesses unique survival capabilities, including enduring temperatures so extreme that some of them do not occur naturally on our planet, going for decades without water, resisting radiation outside the Earth and even surviving the vacuum of space.
The US space agency (NASA) plans to investigate these natural “astronauts” further, in order to try to learn things that will help better protect human astronauts on future long-term space travel.
An experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS), called Cell Science-04, will help reveal how tardigrades get their “superpowers.”
“We want to see what ‘tricks’ they use to survive when they arrive in space and, over time, what tricks their descendants use,” explains Thomas Boothby, professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie (United States) and principal investigator of the experiment. . “Are they the same or do they change over the generations? We don’t know what to expect.”
One option for tardigrades could be a much higher than normal production of antioxidants to combat the damaging changes in your body caused by increased exposure to radiation in space. “We have seen that they do this on Earth in response to radiation emitted from it,” explains Boothby.
A tardigrade. (Photo: Thomas Boothby, University of Wyoming)
The research team will study what happens to the genes of tardigrades in space. Know which ones are activated or deactivated in response to short and long-term space travel It will help researchers identify the specific resources tardigrades use to survive in this harsh environment.
Checking which genes are also turned on or off with other types of environmental stress will help identify genes that respond exclusively to spaceflight.
The tiny heroes of Cell Science-04 won’t be the first tardigrades to show off their “superpowers” to human astronauts up there. They have already been shown to survive even the vacuum of space, as was found when they spent time outside the space station for an experiment.
On this new occasion, the tardigrades will live and reproduce inside a special camera developed for the ISS by NASA’s Ames Research Center.
Revealing what makes tardigrades so resilient could also lead to new ways to protect biological materials, such as food and medicine, from extreme temperatures, desiccation, and radiation exposure, which will be invaluable for missions. long-term deep space exploration. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)