The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crashed into the moon during a failed landing attempt on April 11. In doing so, it may have strewn the lunar surface with thousands of dehydrated tardigrades. The Israeli spacecraft was a robotic lander. Though it didn’t transport astronauts, it carried human DNA samples, along with the tardigrades. It’s unknown if the moss piglets survived the impact when the craft crashed.

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are microscopic creatures measuring between 0.05 to 1.2 millimetres long. They have tubby bodies and eight legs tipped with tiny “hands”, but tardigrades are best well-known for their near-indestructibility. They can survive conditions that would be deadly to any other creature, can withstand temperatures of -200 degrees Celsius to more than 149 C. They also handily survive exposure to the radiation and vacuum of space.

Tardigrades also have the ability to dehydrate their bodies into a state of suspended animation. They retract their heads and legs, expel the water from their bodies and shrivel up into a tiny ball — and scientists have found that tardigrades can revive from this dehydrated state after 10 years or more. So, if any creature could survive a crash-landing in space, it would probably be a tardigrade.

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