Living Creatures in space

Outer space is a pretty rough place, death valley, step aside, space will trump you every time in every way.
You would summize that nothing “alive” could survive there for any length of time.
There’s the cold vacuum, of course, which can freeze-dry an unprotected astronaut. But there are other hazards, too, including the sun’s ultraviolet rays, unfiltered by atmosphere. Being exposed to them is no day at the beach — it’s far worse.

Too bad we all can’t be tardigrades, those tiny roly-poly invertebrates that live in lakes and oceans and among mosses and lichens. European researchers report that these creatures, commonly called water bears, can survive in space.

K. Ingemar Jonsson of Kristianstad University in Sweden and colleagues shipped two species of tardigrades aboard a 2007 European Space Agency mission that reached low-Earth orbit, about 160 miles up. Some of the water bears were exposed to the vacuum of space only, while others were exposed to vacuum and ultraviolet radiation.

As the researchers describe in Current Biology, the tardigrades survived vacuum-only conditions quite well. This is perhaps not surprising, since water bears are able to deal with extreme dehydration. In fact, the specimens used in the experiment were already thoroughly desiccated, and upon re-entry they were rehydrated and revived.

But even a few of the specimens exposed to the full spectrum and intensity of ultraviolet radiation — about 1,000 times as intense as that on Earth — survived. Thus the water bears join some lichens and bacteria as the only species known to be able to cope, unprotected, with both vacuum and solar radiation in space.

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