The Planetary Society welcomes home space shuttle Endeavour and the microscopic passengers it carried in Shuttle LIFE an experiment designed to test aspects of the transpermia hypothesis -- the ability of microbial life to survive an interplanetary voyage.
"Welcome home Living Interplanetary Flight Experimental (LIFE) microbes and water bears!" said Bill Nye, Executive Director of the Planetary Society. "Everyone on Earth wants to know if you were changed by your flight in space. We will carefully open the sample tubes, have a look, and report what you were up to up there."
Water bears, or tardigrades -- although no bigger than the head of a pin -- were the largest of the LIFE organisms to launch on Endeavour in the Planetary Society experiment. Shuttle LIFE will serve as a test run for Phobos LIFE, a larger collection of organisms that the Planetary Society will send on a three-year trip aboard a Russian spacecraft to the Martian moon Phobos and back to Earth in a capsule that will simulate a meteoroid. Phobos LIFE is set to launch in fall, 2011.
Proud Member of Endeavour Crew
Most folks who knew Water bear never thought he'd amount to much, but today he has proven that he has what it takes to sail through the cosmos. Five microorganisms will blast off on behalf of The Planetary Society's Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment (LIFE), which will see if living organisms can make the trip into space, handle some zero-g exposure and take in a little low-Earth orbit radiation. The microbes on-board Endeavour include the tardigrades (nicknamed Water Bears) which are large extremophiles that can withstand temperatures as biting as absolute zero, and as hot as 150 degrees Celsius. Art courtesy of Cloe Ashton