What is the aim of TARDIS?

Why should we send dry aquatic invertebrates into space, an environment that certainly is not normal for these animals? There are many answers to this question. One would be: to see if these animals, as the first ever, are able to cope with the extremely dry conditions of deep vacuum and the harmful solar and galactic radiation up there. In the past, several biologists have suggested that tardigrades may be one of the few animals that have a chance to come back alive after a trip in real space. Finally we will be able to find out if this is true.

At a more mechanistic biological level, exposure of organisms to space conditions will reveal how living cells react to the potentially very stressful impact of space parameters. And organisms that can handle the damaging space parameters will be important sources of knowledge for how to generate the space ecosystems that will be necessary for the more permanent human establishments in space that is envisaged today.

The TARDIS experiment consists of two sets of samples: one set exposed to both space vacuum and solar radiation, and another set exposed to space vacuum only. All tardigrade specimens included in the study are in a dry, anhydrobiotic state. Species included are: Richtersius coronifer, Milnesium tardigradum, Echiniscus testudo, Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri. These are all known to be very tolerant to desiccation.

Once on the ground again, these samples will be analysed for survival and reproductive potential, and for damage on DNA.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Space tardigrades ready for analyses!

The hardware with TARDIS samples has now been returned to the Swedish laboratory. No damage could be observed so the hardware part of the experiment worked fine. The software part, i.e. the tardigrades, will now be examined, and this will take a few months. Survival of exposed and non-exposed animals will be monitored , and reproduction patterns recorded. And the analyses of damage to DNA will soon be initiated. When all these analyses are ready, we will know if these pioneer tardigrades were able to stand their trip through space.

4 comments:

Anders Borg said...

Looking forward to the results.

I'm amazed you were able to pull this experiment through the screening process. Not that it requires that much space (no pun intended).

I've been interested in tardigrades for a while due to their "super powers", and understanding how they do it.

Cheers

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