Could tardigrades survive on the surface of the Moon

Tardigrades are microscopic invertebrates that are neither insects or worms. In 2019, the Israeli Beresheet probe with these creatures on board crashed while attempting to land on the moon. But could they survive on the surface of our planet’s moon?

Can tardigrades survive on the moon? Source:

Tardigrades on board Beresheet

On February 22, 2019, an unmanned Beresheet probe created by a private Israeli company attempted to land on the moon. It was on the right trajectory and even began to slow down, but was able to put it out only to 500 km/h and crashed into the surface of our moon. The force of the impact was so great that pieces of it were scattered hundreds of meters around the impact site.

All this is well known thanks to the images of the LRO spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Moon for many years. Back in April of the same year, it showed how fatal the collision was for the Israeli probe. However, scientists continue to argue about its consequences to this day.

The reason for this is the tardigrades. They were in the capsule on board the Beresheet. These microscopic animals are famous for their ability to survive in conditions of vacuum, high temperature and radiation. Therefore, there is still debate whether they could survive on the surface of the moon.

Endurance of tardigrades

Tardigrades are not insects or arachnids, although they have a common ancestor with them. They have four pairs of limbs, a mouth and an intestine. Most of these creatures live in reservoirs from oceans to puddles, although in general they can be found almost everywhere, including the urban environment. They can reproduce both sexually and parthenogenetically.

Anyway, in order to actively move around, look for food and reproduce, tardigrades need moisture. In its absence, they dry out and go into a hibernation-like state called cryptobiosis. In this state, they demonstrate the very ultra-high endurance for which they are famous.

Adult tardigrades in a state of cryptobiosis are able to withstand temperatures from -272 °C to 150 °C for several hours and for a long time at high doses of gamma radiation of 1000 or 4,400 Gray. For comparison, a dose of 10 Gy is fatal to humans, and 40-50,000 Gy sterilizes all types of material.

Could tardigrades survive on the moon?

The first question to be answered regarding the tardigrades on board the Beresheet concerns whether they could survive the impact. Laboratory tests show that their relatives survive quite well at speeds of 2,600 km/ h, and this is much more than the speed of the Israeli probe. So, the answer to this part of the riddle is yes.

The next issue is solar radiation. The moon is not protected from it in any way, but in fact, compared to those gigantic doses that tardigrades are able to withstand, it is not so great. In a state of cryptobiosis, tiny creatures could withstand it for decades.

Finally, there remains the temperature, which ranges from -190°C to 120°C per month. Such extreme conditions last for several days there, and scientists are not sure if the tardigrades could withstand them for so long. In any case, in the absence of water, they will not be able to return to an active life.

According to

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time