In a study published this month in the journal Astrobiology, the researchers point out that “there is no knowledge of how [tardigrades] survive impact shocks” and so “accordingly, we have fired tardigrades at high speed in a gun onto sand targets, subjecting them to impact shocks and evaluating their survival.”
“We had no real info, only guesswork,” Burchell said in an email. He noted that past studies of tardigrade-scale seeds break apart when they impact at speeds over 2,200 miles per hour, and at shock pressures of 1 gigapascal (GPa), which suggested that it “might be an interesting regime to test” actual tardigrades in the same conditions.
“The results were however a surprise in that the tardigrades seemed to recover from impacts, right up to speeds which started to physically tear them into pieces,” Burchell added.
Traspas and Burchell used a special type of scientific equipment called a two-stage light gas gun to fire out their tardigrade-laced projectiles. Light gas guns are used by scientists, for instance at NASA, to test the effects of high velocity impacts (hypervelocity). Their use of gunpowder and compressed hydrogen gas allows them to reach speeds high enough to test, for example, the effects of space debris slamming into satellite shielding. The team selected the tardigrade species Hypsibius dujardini for the study, and induced the animals to enter their “tun” state, a special form of suspended animation, by freezing them for two days before the experiment.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction