Star Trek: Discovery has had a few weird storylines over its two series, but one of the most offbeat definitely involved the spacefaring Tardigrade, a strange multidimensional creature who was a cousin to the Earth-based micro-animals of the same name.
In Discovery, the much larger Tardigrade (nicknamed “Ripper”) used its unique genetic make-up to travel through the mycelial network of intergalactic spores, and was briefly enslaved by the Discovery crew to help navigate the network that they were attempting to use with their own spore drive.
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Yes, we said it was weird. Anyway in the end Ripper was released, the series moved on and we thought that was the last we’d hear of any Tardigrades hurtling through space – but now, some real-life science news has shown just how close to reality the world of Star Trek can be.
Well, sort of close.
You see, at time of writing, it’s believed that several thousand of Earth’s real-life Tardigrades – known colloquially as “water bears” and “moss piglets” – are currently alive on the Moon, after an Israeli lunar probe called Beresheet carrying a sample of the species crash-landed there in April.
The microscopic invertebrates (who live in water on Earth) are believed to have survived due to their naturally hardy nature, with tests previously revealing that they can survive temperatures of 150 degrees centigrade and (more pertinently) freezing conditions close to absolute zero.
“We believe the chances of survival are extremely high,” scientist Nova Spivack, part of the team that sent the tardigrades into space, said to The Sun.
“Tardigrades are ideal to include because they are microscopic, multicellular and one of the most durable forms of life on Earth.”
So while these Tardigrades are unlikely to be zooming though spore networks any time soon, in a small way part of Star Trek: Discovery’s weirdest ideas – moss pigs….in….space! – did come true after all.
Frankly, we’ll never see microscopic invertebrate news the same way again.
Star Trek: Discovery seasons one and two are streaming on Netflix UK now