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Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

Posted November 02, 2015 7:42 AM by Bayes

Tardigrades

Some animals are just hard to kill. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are micro-animals that can survive extreme conditions. Whether it's almost absolute zero or 150 degrees C or pressures 6 times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, Tardigrades persist. Even the vacuum of space and radiation levels hundreds of times higher than would kill a human won't always kill them, and they can go 10 years without food or water. Under most of the conditions just described they are basically in stasis till the environment is suitable enough for them to revive.

Tardigrades

LIFE Experiment

Tardigrades, along with some other specimens, were picked for a rather ambitious and perhaps morally questionable endeavor. The idea was to fly them to Mars' moon Phobos and back to see if they could survive the trip. The morality in question is it risks possibility of contaminating Phobos with Earth life. It doesn't matter now because the mission failed in 2011, but there are hopes to revive it.

LIFE Experiment

Here is an interesting article on the experiment:

Tough astronaut bugs to blast off for Martian moon

A ragtag group of rugged travellers is sent on a three-year round trip to a desolate moon that might be the site of a future human outpost in space.No, that's not a pitch for a reality show - it's a description of an experiment called LIFE (Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment) that is scheduled to set off for the larger of Mars's two moons, Phobos, on 8 November, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The travellers are not celebrities, but some of Earth's toughest organisms, including the bacterium and water bears - tiny invertebrates that can survive extreme temperatures and the vacuum of space in Low-Earth orbit.

The brainchild of the non-profit Planetary Society of Pasadena, California, LIFE will pack 10 such hardy organisms inside a container the size of a hockey puck and then hitch a ride aboard Russia's Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Soil) spacecraft. LIFE will test an idea called transpermia, in which organisms "could be ejected off one planet in impacts, travel through space inside rocks, then be deposited on another world", says Bruce Betts, LIFE's lead scientist. Phobos-Grunt "will act as a simulated rock carrying life between planets". If the organisms survive, it would strengthen the idea that life on Earth might have come from other planets, or has travelled to other planets. Phobos lies far beyond Earth's protective magnetosphere, so LIFE should provide a glimpse of what happens when organisms are not shielded from many of the damaging charged particles from the sun and other sources. While organisms taken to the moon on Apollo missions went beyond the magnetosphere, it was only for a few days at a time. LIFE should expose its organisms to the radiation and temperatures of space for three years.

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#1

Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/02/2015 10:03 AM

Sounds like a bad idea. We normally go to extreme pains to sterilize any space probe to prevent contamination. If we want to test their ability to survive in space, why not just fly them around the solar system not going to any particular moon or planet with instrumentation to monitor them.

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#7
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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 9:07 AM

Although we did not do it on either the Mars Rover or the One that we are sending in 2020 for some odd reason.

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#2

Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/02/2015 10:22 AM

Don't we ever learn about the consequences about bringing in an invasive species....

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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/02/2015 4:42 PM
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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/02/2015 4:45 PM
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#5

Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 2:56 AM

'The morality in question is it risks possibility of contaminating Phobos with Earth life. It doesn't matter now because the mission failed in 2011, but there are hopes to revive it.'

Morality? What you mean is guilt has finally pushed them to tell you what they have done many years ago and the life they are finding was sent up by NASA and the Russians.

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#6
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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 8:56 AM

"and the life they are finding" - They are not finding life:

"The Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment[2] (LIFE or Phobos LIFE[3]) was an interplanetary mission developed by the Planetary Society. It consisted of sending selected microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary round-trip in a small capsule aboard the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft in 2011, which was a failed sample-return mission to the Martian moon Phobos. The Fobos-Grunt mission failed to leave Earth orbit,[4][5] and was destroyed."

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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 10:00 AM

I think on further research you will discover that they did in fact find microbes way back in the early 70's that they could not quite explain on capsules and on the shuttle.

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/188479-astronauts-find-living-organisms-clinging-to-the-international-space-station-and-arent-sure-how-they-got-there

Start here!

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#11
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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 10:23 AM

Indeed! But, from the article: 1. "The organisms found on the ISS aren't tardigrades", and 2. If that was from the early 70's (must admit I did not read the whole article to find out), the it wasn't from the failed LIFE experiment.

I am still confused where you are getting: "What you mean is guilt has finally pushed them to tell you what they have done"

There is no connection here that I can see.

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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 10:40 AM

1969 They were tardigrades. Why do you think they want to send them back? And, they are just polluting another place in the name of mankind.

The so called LIFE experiment was proved in 1969. 46 Years ago. Is there a point to doing the same thing again and wasting your tax money. The ISS is there to do the same thing and over 200 people have been there. Do you really think it has not been proved already? Look at any ISS video feed and see just what is floating around in space and see what has been noted.

Check out this link. Surprised!

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/i-dont-think-youre-ready-for-this-jelly/280674/

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#13
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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 11:04 AM

Don't get me wrong, I think the idea is "dumber than a box of rocks". Before sending any form of earth life to another planet, you should slap yourself in the face with the "law of unintended consequences". Then rethink your decision.

And yes, I agree the point that tardigrades can survive has already been well proven. Just not by the LIFE experiment was my point, but rather by life itself. Therefore no guilt, other than the guilt of trying to prove something they already knew.

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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 11:54 AM

Just encase a human with a cell phone and XBox in concrete and send him on his way. He will tell you more on Facebook than the little bug will tell you. iPhone & iDiot in Space. L.I.F.E. Long Interstellar Facebook Experiment.

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#9

Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 10:15 AM

http://www.space.com/11536-moon-microbe-mystery-solved-apollo-12.html

As far back as 1969.

The astrobiological upshot as deduced from the unplanned experiment was that 50 to 100 of the microbes appeared to have survived launch, the harsh vacuum of space, three years of exposure to the moon's radiation environment, the lunar deep-freeze at an average temperature of minus 253 degrees Celsius, not to mention no access to nutrients, water or an energy source.

Not really news worthy today. Old news to some of us.

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Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/03/2015 10:20 AM

Somehow reminds me of the movie "The Andromeda Strain"

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#15

Re: Sending Tardigrades to Phobos

11/04/2015 3:36 PM

I don't see this as any more of a moral issue than sending any man-made object to another planet/moon/place. What's to say that the object being sent isn't already crawling with micro-organisms.

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