The microscopic animals have the ability to survive extreme conditions and this is being tested by a team of ambitious researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara
Ambitious boffins want to use massive lasers in spaceships the size of a human hand to shoot “indestructible” tardigrades into the stars at 100 million miles per hour to show what space travel is doing to organisms.
The microscopic animals have the ability to survive extreme conditions, and this is being tested by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as described in an article published in the journal Acta Astronautica.
“This has never been done before to move macroscopic objects at speeds close to the speed of light,” said Professor Philip Lubin of UC Santa Barbara.
The tiny spaceship with the tardigrade “would probably be the size of your hand,” said Professor Lubin.
“It would likely look like a semiconductor wafer with an edge to protect it from radiation and dust bombardment as it goes through the interstellar medium,” he said.
Tardigrades are microscopic eight-legged animals that were previously in space and would likely survive the apocalypse, according to National Geographic.
Study author Professor Joel Rothman, also from the University of California, Santa Barbara, explained the rationale for the project, saying they will study the behavior of the tardigrade as they speed into space.
“We can ask how well they remember trained behavior as they fly away from their terrestrial origin at the speed of light and examine their metabolism, physiology, neurological function, reproduction and aging,” he said.
“We could start thinking about designing interstellar transporters, whatever they are, to alleviate the problems encountered with these tiny animals.”
The entire startup process – which would use laser light – would consume a tenth of the entire US electricity grid, the researchers admit. However, they think that it is our “destiny” to explore further.
“I think it is our destiny to explore further,” said Professor Rothman. “Look at the history of mankind.
“We are exploring on ever smaller levels down to the subatomic level, and we are also exploring on ever larger scales.
“This urge to ceaseless exploration lies at the core of who we are as a species.”
Scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research have successfully resuscitated a tardigrade they collected in Antarctica and frozen for a total of 30 years.
Tardigrades, better known as “water bears”, are tiny creatures that are typically about 0.5 mm long.
A tardigrade can do without food or water for years and can endure extreme radiation and temperatures.
Living things feed on plant cells and algae.
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