Ode to the Tardigrade

Tardigrade on the Moon—
will you perish soon?
Parked in her immense
left eye, you have the sense

(since there is neither air
nor moss nor water there)
to curl into a ball,
dry out and, thus, forestall

the death that would ensue
for anyone but you.
A wizard at survival
you’ve not a single rival,

for when an asteroid
dives headlong from the void
and pummels us, you’ll chuckle
as we collapse and buckle.

For half a billion years
through sea-changed biospheres,
you’ve been here. There’s no doubt
your mastery stands out,

your expertise at cheating
the Reaper as you’re heating
to feverish degrees
or cooling down to freeze

(without so much as sneezing,
shivering, or wheezing)
to paralyzing zero.
And so, my tiny hero,

when we again alight
upon the Moon some night,
be kind and do not chortle
at souls so frail and mortal!

____________________________

​A “lunar library” — containing thousands of books, DNA samples, and a few thousand tardigrades — was sent to the moon on Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft. Beresheet attempted its landing in the Sea of Serenity on April 11, 2019, but crashed after a problem with the engine in the last moments. Did the water bears survive the crash?

​Note: “Parked in her immense / left eye” alludes to the Sea of Serenity. In renderings of the “Man in the Moon” the Sea of Serenity typically forms the left eye. The Mare Serenitatis falls between the Mare Imbrium or Sea of Rains to the west, and the Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) to the southeast.


Comments

Miles T. Ranter's picture
Hi Elisa. Thanks for stopping by. If they happened to crash in a place with shadow, some of them may actually still be alive. But if they are exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays, then it is doubtful. But even if they are still alive in their "tun state" (cryptobiotic), they have to be placed in water and need air in order to rehydrete and become active again. Maybe future astronauts will help them do that!

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