A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

From Wired

American Museum of Natural History

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are microscopic animals that can survive for years without food or water. And now they’re on the moon!

It was just before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the moon shortly thereafter.

Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

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August 10, 2019 2:11 am

The tardigrade appears to already be equipped with his own space suit. They should go quite well on the moon.

Bill T
August 10, 2019 3:17 am

I had to re-check to see if this was from the Babylon Bee.

August 10, 2019 3:27 am

No water, no life. They will desicate. Think mummy.
Surface temp will go to 100C plus in sunlight.
Proteins “cook” at that temperature. Think, eggs on a skillet.
Even in a place sheltered from sunlight, the radiation will get them eventually.
Same goes for any other life with proteins, which is everything, such as bacteria.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  bwegher
August 11, 2019 8:57 am

bwegher August 10, 2019 at 3:27 am:

No water, no life.

bwegher – no chance / with water on the moon:


John Tillman
Reply to  bwegher
August 11, 2019 10:49 am

A gene from one water bear species has been shown to protect cultured human cells from X-ray damage:


Julian Flood
August 10, 2019 3:34 am

Wrong destination. Put the tardigrades and algae onto a comet and let them freeze-dry and thaw for millennia. Colonise the Oort Cloud!


Reply to  Julian Flood
August 10, 2019 8:46 am

That Oort to be interesting when it happens.

Reply to  shrnfr
August 10, 2019 10:03 pm


R. Craigen
Reply to  shrnfr
August 12, 2019 2:16 pm

Which suggests this will be first done by the Swedish space agency?

August 10, 2019 3:52 am

Never heard of them since I left school.

August 10, 2019 3:52 am

I wonder how long before they evolve into giant Dune style sandworms ?

August 10, 2019 3:54 am

One really, really, really small step for a tardigrade…

Reply to  TinyCO2
August 10, 2019 5:18 am


Stephen Philbrick
Reply to  TinyCO2
August 10, 2019 8:26 am


S.K. Jasper
Reply to  TinyCO2
August 10, 2019 9:41 am

Obviously this did not really happen. The crash landing was all staged in a studio somewhere. (sarc)

John Tillman
Reply to  TinyCO2
August 11, 2019 12:06 am

Small and slow.

Ed Zuiderwijk
August 10, 2019 4:26 am

But what will it eat?

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
August 10, 2019 7:53 am

Cheese. of course

Dan Cody
Reply to  icisil
August 10, 2019 8:12 am

A termite went into a bar and asked,”Is the bar tender here?”

What’s the difference between boogers and broccoli?
Kids won’t eat broccoli.

Scientists have discovered a new food that lowers the female sex drive:wedding cake.

Bryan A
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
August 10, 2019 8:58 am

Tardigrade stew

Flight Level
August 10, 2019 4:34 am

One more scare is born.

Timo, not that one
Reply to  Flight Level
August 10, 2019 7:56 pm

I understand that Tardigrades are bigger on the inside than on the outside.

August 10, 2019 4:37 am

We are all Tardigrades now.

August 10, 2019 4:40 am

The lunar rocks and dust brought back from the moon from the Apollo missions showed that the moon has been repeatedly subject to massive un-attenuated solar flares. And it has been theorized that some of these rise to the level of micro-novas. I would not think any of the experimental specimens will survive even the next Carrington level event.

Chuck Norris however will roll out a mat at Apollo 11’s landing site, and enhance his tan.

Reply to  sendergreen
August 10, 2019 5:33 am

Chuck Norris however will roll out a mat at Apollo 11’s landing site, and enhance his tan.

I understand that Chuck died a number of years ago but Death is afraid to tell him.

Reply to  sycomputing
August 10, 2019 6:40 pm

I think Chuck is still alive, at 79 years old.

August 10, 2019 4:41 am

I can’t find a list of books in the lunar library.

David Chappell
Reply to  Roger
August 10, 2019 5:55 am

But what about the librarian?

Reply to  David Chappell
August 11, 2019 12:12 am


Jim G
Reply to  David Chappell
August 11, 2019 9:39 am


Next they will be playing 76 trombones….

Jim G
Reply to  David Chappell
August 11, 2019 9:42 am

Are you referring to Miriam?

Next they will be playing 76 trombones….

August 10, 2019 5:07 am

Rename the moon Tardigradia.

August 10, 2019 5:37 am

funny how they had fits about everything needing to be close to sterile for exoplanet landings(mars) ..but, private interests didnt do so?
and then human dna?
so if there were aliens;-) its handing them an awful lot of info assuming they could work any of it out.

August 10, 2019 5:40 am

Oh boy … our (mankind’s) first non-terrestrial bio-hazard accident … a notable first!

August 10, 2019 5:45 am

On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped.

Be interesting to know what the last IMU data was in those last seconds … perhaps the beginning of a tumble by their lunar lander upon descent …

Reply to  _Jim
August 10, 2019 8:23 am

I know from personal experience that those last few seconds before touchdown on a lunar surface can be hectic. An unexpected slope or bolder can mess things up suddenly, and a rocket engine designed for landing in the lowered gravity doesn’t leave you much for emergency maneuvers.

…what? Kerbal Space Program totally counts as personal experience.


Reply to  _Jim
August 10, 2019 11:03 am

It strikes me that background computing CPU time was halted because primary program of CPU demands took precedence.

Reply to  ATheoK
August 11, 2019 12:52 am

Sounds like a Windows OS.

M__ S__
August 10, 2019 6:00 am

They’ll evolve faster in the radiation and before long they’ll be landing on Earth in their own spaceships, demanding tribute.

Another Paul
Reply to  M__ S__
August 12, 2019 9:58 am

Or reparations?

Dan Cody
August 10, 2019 6:15 am

Did You hear about the new restaurant that opened up on the moon?
I hear the food is great,but there’s no atmosphere.

What do aliens eat for dessert? Martian-mallows.

Reply to  Dan Cody
August 10, 2019 8:03 am

Adults reading Dan’s jokes are groan (wo)men.

Reply to  Dan Cody
August 10, 2019 9:04 am

I believe this restaurant is supplied from that Israeli deli “Cheeses of Nazareth”

August 10, 2019 6:30 am

Oh Great.
We put a big chunk of human knowledge together and loaded it with a bioweapon. Any aliens who come across the artifacts will start decoding and fall ill due to infection. Because of the alien (to them) biochemistry of the Tardigrades, they will be helpless and will not be able to marshal their medical resources fast enough. A big chunk of their research teams will be lost to the plague before they get things under control.

No doubt, the aliens will consider the use of the bioweapon to be deliberate, and an act of war, because no species can be so stupid as to load an information library with an infectious agent.
They will respond in kind.
How is that going to work out for everybody?

August 10, 2019 7:13 am

LOL they actually included a copy of Wikipedia in their archive as a sign of human intelligence.

“In the weeks following the Beresheet crash…”

Beresheet is the first Hebrew word in Genesis and means “in the beginning” (God created the heavens and the earth). In this case, “In the beginning (they crashed)”.

Reply to  icisil
August 10, 2019 8:05 am

You had to know, there would be a Big Bang in there somewhere.

Dan Cody
Reply to  TonyL
August 10, 2019 8:17 am

What’s the difference between God and Bill Gates? God doesn’t think he’s Bill Gates.

Reply to  icisil
August 11, 2019 12:48 am

where does a Beresheet ?
No, on the moon !

English Bibles start with “In the beginning there was the Word. ”

The Hebrew versions reads “In the Beresheet there was the Worm.”

Something seems to have gone wrong in translation.

John Tillman
Reply to  icisil
August 11, 2019 10:35 am

Two words written as one, pronounced “buh” (in or at) and “ray-sheeth” (beginning or first).

The definite article “ha” isn’t used in biblical Hebrew as often as “the” is in English. In grammar it’s called a “particle definite article”, traditionally considered an actual part of the definite noun.

There’s no indefinite article in biblical Hebrew.

August 10, 2019 8:15 am

I thought I had read that while the tardigrades were technically “alive” they were in a dormant stage and they were encased in plastic resin.

michael hart
August 10, 2019 8:40 am

So what? We’ve taken plenty of microbes to the moon already. Maybe it just so happens that tardigrades have also figured in some space-travel science fiction stories, and this now helps make a media story. Let them eat cake.

For what it’s worth, I reckon they look disturbingly similar to some Dyson vacuum cleaners I have known.

August 10, 2019 8:52 am

I mourn for the moss piggies.

August 10, 2019 9:10 am

Nobody is bother to ask the most basic question of all:
“WTF purpose were they transporting tardigrades to the moon?”
We have protocols against doing just such things! They very well may die, but what if they all don’t? We find ‘extremophiles’ is all sorts of ‘uninhabitable’ environments. Now we simply have the first introduction of non-native invasive life forms on a previously uncontaminated environment.
IMHO this was an extremely irresponsible thing to do! And now, we can only hope that this error takes care of itself.

Shoki Kaneda
August 10, 2019 9:24 am

Cosmic radiation will mutate them to giant size, turn them blue and grant amazing powers, like instantaneous, intergalactic travel.

John Tillman
Reply to  Shoki Kaneda
August 10, 2019 11:39 am

Some think that tiny tardigrades descend from larger, macroscopic ancestors.

Genetics has helped to clarify their relationships. They appear to be the sister phylum to Euarthropoda in the clade Tactopoda, a phylogenetic grouping also supported by morphological traits. The sister phylum to Tactpoda is Onychophora, the velvet worms, in clade Panarthropoda of Superphylum Ecdysozoa of clade Protostomia.

Tardigrades, arthropods and hence ecdysozoans are known from the Cambrian Period (541-485.4 Ma) of the Paleozoic Era of the present Phanerozoic Eon. Protostomes and their (and our) bilaterian ancestors date from the Ediacaran Period (635-541 Ma) of the Neoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon.

michael hart
Reply to  John Tillman
August 10, 2019 6:47 pm

I don’t know why, but “clade” is one of my favorite words (and rhymes with tardigrade). It ought to be used more often, IMO.

John Tillman
Reply to  michael hart
August 10, 2019 10:47 pm

I agree.

The tardigrade clade has it made in the shade.

Except that their clade is generally considered a phylum.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
August 11, 2019 11:07 am

This 2011 study switched the phylogenetic positions of velvet worms and water bears, with the former closer to arthropods and the latter as sister group to the arthropod-velvet worm clade. Hence, no clade Tactopoda.


Water bears just look more arthropody to me than do velvet worms.

At least the paper agrees with other recent research ruling out a previously proposed close relationship with nematodes.

August 10, 2019 10:35 am

lord help us all if they morph into epa lawyers.

a tardigrade lands on the moon finds itself attacked by a lunar lion, a lunar tiger, and a lawyer.
its weapon only has 2 shots left in it.
whats it do?
shoots the lawyer twice to be safe.

August 10, 2019 10:52 am

Spore drive! 😂

Tom Abbott
August 10, 2019 10:56 am

I guess we could mount a cleanup campaign there at the landing site. The tardigrades are not going anywhere soon.

Once we return to the Moon, that is.

August 10, 2019 11:14 am

“A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”

The link attached about tardigrades only suggests the eggs can survive “space”; not the creature.
The link also states that tardigrades eat single cell life.

So what will tardigrades get to eat on the moon?
Each other?
Tardigrade eggs?

Unless someone goes to the crash site quickly, those exposed tardigrades will enjoy solar wind particles, high energy solar radiation and extremes of heat and cold; both happening extremely quickly.
Not to overlook the occasional meteorite pounding the little bugger at 30 to 50 thousand miles per hour velocities.

Declare the small lunar location a contaminated location to be avoided; with severe penalties for violators. Like, take away their spaceship.

August 10, 2019 11:31 am

I’m sure we will spend many taxpayer dollars someday to see if they survived.

Killer Marmot
Reply to  DMacKenzie
August 10, 2019 11:18 pm

It might be worth it. It would tell us something about the toughness of life, and its potential to migrate between celestial objects.

August 10, 2019 12:41 pm

There they go again – the Moon is not Kosher anymore!
And to think Moses led them out of Egypt to the one place with no oil – now to the Moon with no atmosphere!
Are we seeing the Bible (yeah, Old Testament) repeating itself?
Anyway it was not just a “private venture” – the Israeli defense establishment is heavily involved.
Hey, Moses was neither a private venture – see the Covenant!

High Treason
August 10, 2019 1:33 pm

With all the raw radiation from space, the tardigrades could evolve in to something truly magnificent. Their intellect could well exceed that of humans which is not too hard- humans are such a dull species that many believe the absurd notion that an essential trace element released in to the ecosytem by their activities is destroying the planet, warranting abandonment of the technology that supports 1,000 times more of them in comfort and safety than would otherwise be supported.

The tardigrades could well develop the technology to explore the cosmos, starting with planet earth. They have Helium 3 on the moon, which is a very energy dense fuel. Will they analyse humans and think what a primitive retrograde planet – these are the intelligent species?

The clever and by now large astro tardigrades will examine archaelogical sites which will demonstrate how the humans were so stupid-they abandoned a wonderfully advanced civilisation to embrace a very pagan belief that the 3% of CO2 increase that was from them somehow was responsible for anything bad on their planet, in particular, that their planet was going to burn to a crisp.

August 10, 2019 2:30 pm

All of the sudden, I’m feeling really itchy.

Bill Parsons
August 10, 2019 5:48 pm

Students have so many of these – they hardly care anymore.

Steve O
August 11, 2019 7:00 am

Great. Now I’ll sound like a flat-eather if someone asks me if I believe there’s life on the moon.

As a side note, I think we need to acknowledge the achievements of this “lowly” creature as there have now been MANY more tardigrades who have made it to the moon than humans.

Adrian Mann
August 11, 2019 4:46 pm

Trust the Zionists to completely F*ck something up and then apologise for it afterwards. What in the name of all that is holy were those damn things doing on there in the first place? Next thing will be that they announce that in accordance with their Magic Book™ and by virtue of advance payment in the chosen currency of Yahweh, i.e. the foreskins of infant male human beings, the Moon has now been annexed for the Chosen People and Palestinians are forbidden from landing on it, because Tewworwists or something. But better stage a few pre-emptive bombings just in case.

NB: Before you start – no, not anti-semitic (Noah did not exist and neither did he have three sons, so the whole notion of semitism is entirely fictitious in the first place) – but anti-Zionist. Educate yourself.

Reply to  Adrian Mann
August 12, 2019 11:58 am

Adrian, Yes, I agree. Sending up invasive extremophiles was a very irresponsible thing to do.

Robert of Texas
August 12, 2019 10:45 am

Have you ever actually looked at a Tardigrade under a microscope? They probably came from the moon in the first place!

August 12, 2019 12:00 pm

Adrian, Yes, I agree. Sending up invasive extremophiles was a very irresponsible thing to do.

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