Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Water Bears' Able To Survive Exposure To Vacuum Of Space

Date:
September 9, 2008
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Of all environments, space must be the most hostile: It is freezing cold, close to absolute zero, there is a vacuum, so no oxygen, and the amount of lethal radiation from stars is very high. New research shows that some animals -- the so-called tardigrades or "water bears" -- are able to do away with space suits and can survive exposure to open-space vacuum, cold and radiation.

Water bear (tardigrade), Hypsibius dujardini, scanning electron micrograph by Bob Goldstein, http://tardigrades.bio.unc.edu/
Credit: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Of all environments, space must be the most hostile: It is freezing cold, close to absolute zero, there is a vacuum, so no oxygen, and the amount of lethal radiation from stars is very high. This is why humans need to be carefully protected when they enter this environment.

New research by Ingemar Jönsson and colleagues published in the September 9 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press journal, shows that some animals —the so-called tardigrades or 'water-bears'— are able to do away with space suits and can survive exposure to open-space vacuum, cold and radiation.

This is the first time that any animal has been tested for survival under open-space conditions. The test subjects were chosen with great care: Tardigrades —also known as water-bears— are tiny invertebrate animals from 0.1 to 1.5mm in size that can be easily found on wet lichens and mosses. Because their homes often fall dry, tardigrades are very resistant to drying out and can resurrect after years of dryness. Along with this amazing survival trick comes extreme resistance to heat, cold and radiation —so tardigrades seemed like an ideal animal to test in space.

The dried-up tardigrades were aboard the FOTON-M3 spacecraft launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in September 2007 and were exposed to open space conditions —i.e. to vacuum, UV radiation from the sun and cosmic radiation— in a low Earth orbit of around 270km altitude. After their safe return to Earth, it turned out that while most of them survived exposure to vacuum and cosmic rays alone, some had even survived the exposure to the deadly levels of solar UV radiation, which are more than 1000 times higher than on the surface of the Earth. Even more so, the survivors could reproduce fine after their space trip.

The tardigrades extreme resistance to UV radiation is perhaps most surprising. UV rays consist of high-energy light particles that cause severe damage to tissue, as is evident when you get a sun-burn. But more so, they can also damage the cell's genetic material, causing for instance skin cancers. For this reason UV is deadly for most organisms —it is even used as a sterilising agent. As Jönsson and colleagues write: "How these animals were capable of reviving their body after receiving a dose of UV radiation of more than 7000 kJm-2 under space vacuum conditions […] remains a mystery." It is conceivable that the same cellular adaptations that let them survive drying out might also account for their overall hardiness.

The researchers include K. Ingemar Jönsson, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden; Elke Rabbow, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology Division, Köln, Germany; Ralph O. Schill, Biological Institute, Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany; Mats Harms-Ringdahl, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; and Petra Rettberg, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology Division, Köln, Germany.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jönsson et al. Tardigrades survive exposure to space in low Earth orbit. Current Biology, Vol 18, R729-R731, 09 September 2008 [link]

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "'Water Bears' Able To Survive Exposure To Vacuum Of Space." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908135906.htm>.
Cell Press. (2008, September 9). 'Water Bears' Able To Survive Exposure To Vacuum Of Space. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908135906.htm
Cell Press. "'Water Bears' Able To Survive Exposure To Vacuum Of Space." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908135906.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) — The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) — Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins