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Space Science

How Does the Tiny Waterbear Survive In Outer Space? 119

DevotedSkeptic sends this excerpt from SmithsonianMag: "The humble tardigrade, also known as a 'waterbear' or 'moss piglet,' is an aquatic eight-legged animal that typically grows no longer than one millimeter in length. Most tardigrades (there are more than 1,000 identified species) have a fairly humdrum existence, living out their days on a moist piece of moss or in the sediment at the bottom of a lake and feeding on bacteria or plant life. In 2007, a group of European researchers pushed the resilience of this extraordinary animal even further, exposing a sample of dehydrated tardigrades to the vacuum and solar radiation of outer space for 10 full days. When the specimens were returned to earth and rehydrated, 68 percent of those that were shielded from the radiation survived, and even a handful of those with no radiation protection came back to life and produced viable offspring. How do the little tardigrades survive such a harsh environment? Although amateur tardigrade enthusiast Mike Shaw recently made waves by postulating that the animals may be equipped to survive in outer space because they originally came from other planets, scientists are certain that the creatures developed their uncommon toughness here on earth."
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How Does the Tiny Waterbear Survive In Outer Space?

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  • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @08:02PM (#41307225)

    While this does sound funny at first, I find it intriguing. Who knows?

    While we probably can't know for certain, we can look around and notice no planet nearby that could have supported life that complex with the possible exception of mars.

    Then we can look at the fact that only 68% survived a mere 10 days after being specially treated to do so.

    Then we can speculate about the amount of time it might take for a blasted out chunk of mars to find its way to earth. Hundreds of years is my guess. Millions if it came from further.

    We can further speculate what percentage would survive the journey and then survive a fiery entry into Earth's atmosphere.

    Then we can set aside ALL of that speculation until there is ANY evidence of life on Mars more advanced than an accidental amino acid.

    The inescapable preponderance of evidence is that it originated here. And simply because it can survive an odd experiment is no reason to speculate extraterrestrial origin.

    Occam, guys, Occam.

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