Space exploration is one of our most ambitious yet most expensive endeavors. This should go without saying, but it costs a lot to send something into space. That is why every payload carried aboard shuttles is monitored carefully. However, some of these payloads have contained a lot more than the bare essentials. As you are about to see, we have sent a lot of wacky stuff into space.
Out of all the animals that have been to space, tardigrades are definitely the coolest. These teeny-tiny microscopic critters are the Toyota Hilux of the animal world – they can withstand just about anything. This places them in a category known as extremophiles – organisms that can thrive in harsh environments.
On Earth, tardigrades can survive just about anywhere. They can withstand very high and very low temperatures, extreme amounts of radiation and even live for years without water in hibernation (also why they’re called “water bears”). So it was only natural for us to wonder how they would cope in space. The answer? Fine, just fine. We found this out in 2008 when we took some aboard a shuttle and exposed them to space conditions. They survived their little adventure with no ill effects.