Why the Water Bears are the Most Appropriate Animals to Send to Mars for Human Research

Oxygen is the primary component of animal life on Earth. The lack of oxygen can lead to the death of most animals. However, as a result of photosynthesis, plants generate sufficient oxygen to enable animals, sea creatures, birds as well as people to live on Earth.

Nevertheless, a large percentage of this oxygen does not come from land plants, such as grass or trees, but from a single-celled organism known as the phytoplankton. This organism contributes to about 80% of the oxygen used for survival on Earth. Since most plants do not generate sufficient oxygen for survival on Earth, they are less effective on Mars, a planet that obtains very little sunlight as compared to the Earth (Hartmann 45).

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The Mars planet is frosty, lifeless, extraterrestrial planet with an unbreathable air. Even though the planet does not contain large oceans like the Earth, it holds a lot of snow which could flood the planet if defrosted.

As a matter of fact, the planet is said to be below freezing point making it an exceptional habitat for terrestrial vegetation. However, the planet makes a very poor habitat for animals. This notwithstanding, scientists are in a constant endeavor to formulate the indispensable technology to transform Mars into a habitable planet with regards to air, temperature and pressure (Golombeck 26). The most probable animals to be sent to Mars are probably those of arctic origins.

Hybrid species of water bears could become the first creatures to visit Mars through the use of spacecrafts or panspermia. The water bears, also known as tardigrades, are terrestrial animals that are known to endure insensitive atmospheric combination of low pressure, low temperatures and extreme radiations found in space. This Essay seeks to investigate why the water bears are the most appropriate animals to be sent to Mars for human research.

The water bear has been termed as the “most miraculous creature in the universe” (Romano 134). This is because the creature can survive different types of extremely hazardous condition. Despite being found in almost all the parts of the world, the water bears seem to have escaped human attention.

The creatures are mainly found in freshwater bodies, salty waters and they can also survive on terrestrial climates. The water bears can also survive in wall crevices, tree cracks, roofs and in typical homes; they are most likely to be found in moss cushions. In these environments they only require droplets of water to survive.

The water bears, which are small invertebrates of arctic origin, should be sent in Mars for scientific research. This is because scientists have discovered that the animals can survive in the vacuum of space. This is according to an experiment conducted by a European Space Agency. The water bears are the first animals known to be able to endure the insensitive atmospheric combination of low pressure and extreme radiation found in space. This is mostly attributed to their ability to go through a death-like condition known a cryptobiosis.

In this condition, the water bears respond to the severe environmental conditions which include freezing, lack of oxygen and desiccation by impeding all metabolic processes, curbing reproduction process, development and repair of tissues. In this state, the tardigrades can live for an indefinite period under the harsh environmental conditions found in space, until the conditions stabilizes when the creatures return to their normal metabolic state.

A matter of fact, in 2007, one Swedish scientist, Ingemar Jonsson together with his colleagues who were studying in Kristianstad University endeavored to assess the hardiness of the water bears. The group initiated the experiments that involved two species of tardigrades from Kazakhstan which were exposed to the extreme conditions in space.

The operation involved diverse experimental payloads (Hartmann 40).After about 10 days under the extreme conditions in space; the satellite that carried the water bears came back to Earth. The creatures were retrieved and rehydrated to check on their reaction to the airless environment in space, the sun’s ultraviolet rays as well as the charged elements from space known as the cosmic rays.

The results indicated that the conditions had minimum effects on the tardigrades. In one of the species under experiment, about 69% of the samples that were protected from the extreme energy radiation from the sun were revitalized in about half an hour. As a matter of fact, after this experiment, several of these creatures continued laying eggs that hatched without any hurdles. From this experiment, the water bears were able to survive in space by successfully going through a deathlike condition known as cryptobiosis.

The water bears can also live under minimum oxygen supply through a process known as anoxybiosis. In this condition, the water bears take a lot of water and become turgid and static, reducing their level of oxygen intake.

The time that the water bears take to come back to their normal condition after going through the anoxybiosis state is directly proportional to the time taken in their dormant state. In addition, the deathlike state of cryptobiosis highly reduces their oxygen intake as it lowers their rate of metabolism. This means that the creatures can also survive on Mars a planet that has very little oxygen.

In addition, the tardigrades can endure the process of freezing or thawing that is characterized on Mars. This is because the creatures have a bucco-pharyngeal system and a body which is covered with thick cuticle that contains lipids, chitin and proteins which aid to protect them in times of very low temperatures. As a matter of fact, the water bears are mostly found in Arctic regions which are at very low temperatures. They are said to live under temperatures which are as low as minus 200 degrees Celsius.

Moreover, the water bears are highly resistant to extreme levels of X-ray radiations that are a hundred times more fatal to human beings and other animals. This is mostly attributed to their ability to go through the process of cryptobiosis. In this state, the water bears have an immense resistant to the ionizing x-ray radiations.

Research indicates that about 570,000 roentgens are required to destroy the cells of the water bears. The creature can withstand radiations that can withstand radiations which are up to 250 times more than the one used to damage a mammalian cell (Golombeck 35).

A number of pointers indicate that water bears are preferable for exploration in mars rather than robots. This is because the robots are lifeless and thus are not fit to perform human experiments. On the other hand, the water bears are alive and thus are fit to generate verifiable biological facts. As explained elsewhere within this essay, water bears can survive in lifeless conditions similar to those in Mars without dying. They are able to live in extremely cold and under high pressure with minimal intake of food.

This indicates that these creatures do not require regular supply of energy source, like robots do. In addition, the fact that these creatures can survive in oxygen deficient environment without dying means that scientists can use them to experiment on how to sustain life in oxygen-less conditions.

In waterless environments, water bears go into a dry-like cryptobiosis state through a process referred to as anhydrobiosis. As such, by sending them to Mars, scientists will be in a better position to study how to preserve life forms, especially biology specimens, in lifeless and waterless environments without necessary killing them.

In conclusion, the water bears are the most appropriate creatures to send to Mars for human research. This is because, they can survive in open space and they also have the ability to endure severe conditions for a long time. The creatures are highly likely to survive the extreme conditions as they are highly resistant to the effects of ultraviolet rays, the extreme freezing conditions as well as the strong ultra-violet rays, conditions which characterize the Mars planet (Bell 109).

Water bears are the most appropriate animals to use on experiments on the Mars planet (rather than robots). The water bears should be used to experiment on the environmental conditions found in Mars in order to shed light on how human beings may survive in this planet in future. This is because the rate of survival of the Mars-bound craft is likely to improve with time due to technological improvement.

Works Cited

Bell, John. “Mars Pathfinder: Better Science?” in Sky & Telescope, July 1998.Web. 28 Nov. 2011

Golombeck, Mark. “The Mars Pathfinder Mission” in Scientific American, July 1998, p. 40. Good review by the mission’s chief scientist. 28 Nov 2011

Hartmann, William. “Invading Martian Territory” in Astronomy, Apr. 1999.

Progress report on the Global Surveyor mission. 28 Nov 2011

Romano, Frank. “On Water Bears” in Florida Entomologist, 86. 2(2003). Web. 28 Nov 2011


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