Water bears survive open space

The creature seen here is capable of surviving the harsh conditions of space. While it looks like an extraterrestrial, it's actually a tardigrade, a tiny eight-legged invertebrae also known as a water bear. Microbiologists from the Institute of Aerospace Medicine sent tardigrades into orbit last September and exposed them to the cosmic radiation and deep vacuum of space. They returned alive. From Wired:
 Photos Uncategorized 2008 09 08 Tardigrade3 The tardigrades had already been coaxed into an anhydrobiotic state, during which their metabolisms slow by a factor of 10,000. This allows them to survive vacuums, starvation, dessication and temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit and below minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once in orbit, the tardigrade box popped open. Some were exposed to low-level cosmic radiation, and others to both cosmic and unfiltered solar radiation. All were exposed to the frigid vacuum of space...

Just how the invertebrate astronauts protected themselves "remains a mystery," wrote the researchers.
Invertebrate Astronauts Make Space History (Wired.com)


  1. Despite denials from the justice department, this is definitive evidence of our administration engaging in waterbear torture.

  2. Has anyone sequenced tardigrade DNA and confirmed that they actually come from Earth? Perhaps they’re the answer to the Fermi paradox?

  3. Tardigrades have been partially sequenced and are related to arthropods and annelids, Nelson C.

    Even without this, their physical arrangement and interior structure is profoundly earthly: ventral nervous system and no spiral holoblastic cleavage just like the majority of animals, hemocoel and hemolymph developing the usual way, HOX genes, and on and on.

  4. Shouldn’t “tiny eight-legged vertebrae” actually read “tiny eight-legged invertebrate”?

  5. I know it’s probably just a typo, but, water bears are certainly not “tiny eight-legged vertebrae”. They’re invertebrates.

  6. From my observation of the photograph, water bears seem more closely related to lowrider velour uphostery than to arthropods.

  7. Tardigrades are basically unkillable. Seriously, we’re lucky they’re not omnivorous, because if they were they’d be goo-like in their global threat. (What would that be, bear-goo? Tardi-goo?)

  8. That’s no water bear, that’s a moss piglet.

    Great website here:


    an excerpt:
    “the tardigrade [sometimes called water bears or, to my unending delight, moss piglets] is a microscopic organism, of arthropode-like appearance, but so physiologically unusual it has a phylum all its own (tardigarda). lolling about in its warm, mushy home, the tardigrade is kind of the microbiological equivalent to a damp couch potato slacker. invisible to the naked eye and measuring a scant couple hundred microns across, our little friend still packs a wollop when needed. with an impenetrable exoskeleton and powerklaws of doom,this tiny fella is not to be messed with.”

    I’ve been partial to these tiny critters since I received my first microscope for Xmas when I was 10.

    Amoebas, paramecium and tardigrades, oh my.

  9. I’m no astrobiologist, but judging from the picture I think Dr. Phil might be able to survive in the vacuum and radiation of space as well.

  10. @#8: I know exactly what you’re talking about. I had the worm-looking one.

    Also, we need to take panspermia from theory to reality; launch millions of the little boogers into deep space!

  11. I wrote an article called “It’s Raining Them” for The End is Nigh #3 back in 2006 about Tardigrades and other extremophiles and the possibility that some of them might be planet hoppers.

    The magazine is still available at http://www.endisnigh.co.uk.

  12. “This allows them to survive vacuums, starvation, dessication and temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit and below minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit.” Just like Sea Monkeys! I think we should call them Space Monkeys!

  13. Awww, they’re so cute! Now I’m going to find out they live in feces or something, but until then, go waterbears!

  14. Thyey look like some charater from my comic….

    sorry>>.pdf file 4.5Mo
    did this 3 years ago. I had never actually SEEN them for real..


  15. Water Bears are unbearably cute, and now that their space-hardiness has been proven, they are a natural shoo-in for some marketing genius to come up with some (macro-sized) stuffed ones for the kidlets touring NASA or something.

  16. wow…can’t believe it took until post #33 to welcome our new water bear, etc…..you’re slipping people. slipping!!

  17. Panspermia? Would these things survive the crash, or the heat? I think our atmosphere keeps this planet pretty safe from wondering bits of life.

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