Space missions of long duration required a series of preliminary experiments on living organisms, validated by a substantial phase of ground simulation experiments, in the field of micro- and intermediate gravities, radiobiology, and, for planetary explorations, related to risks deriving from regolith and dust exposure. In this review, we present the tardigrades, whose characteristics that recommend them as an emerging model for space biology. They are microscopic animals but are characterized by a complex structural organization similar to that of larger animals; they can be cultured in lab in small facilities, having small size; they are able to produce clonal lineages by means of parthenogenesis; they can completely suspend their metabolism when entering in dormant states (anhydrobiosis induced by dehydration and cryobiosis induced by freezing); desiccated anhydrobiotic tardigrades are able to withstand chemical and physical extremes, but a large tolerance is showed also by active animals; they can be stored in dry state for many years without loss of viability. Tardigrades have already been exposed to space stressors on Low Earth Orbit several times. The relevance of ground-based and space studies on tardigrades rests on the presumption that results could suggest strategies to protect organisms, also humans, when exposed to the space and lunar environments.
What can we learn from the toughest animals of the Earth? Water bears (tardigrades) as multicellular model organisms in order to perform scientific preparations for lunar exploration / Guidetti, Roberto; A. M., Rizzo; Altiero, Tiziana; Rebecchi, Lorena. - In: PLANETARY AND SPACE SCIENCE. - ISSN 0032-0633. - STAMPA. - 68:(2012), pp. 1-6. [10.1016/j.pss.2012.05.021]