SUMMARY: This is a review of the research articles and experiments on tardigrades in space. It’s an easy read and best used as an introduction to other articles on the specific experiments conducted by NASA. In the first few sections, the authors explain what tardigrades are, their physiology, and the enzymes and molecules in them that prevent nucleic acids, lipid membranes, and proteins from denaturing during desiccation (the process of drying out and turning into a tun). The last section talks about the various experiments conducted by NASA on tardigrades; it is unclear whether the tardigrades are in their tun or live when exposed to space conditions.
LESSON COMMENTS: An article that can be assigned to learn more about tardigrades and other microscopic animals such as rotifers. These animals are easily found in ponds so this article could be an add-on to a lab exploring pond microorganisms. The second section (What Makes Them So Special) could be used to introduce lower level students (middle school or freshman) to concepts such as: macromolecules, denaturing, and enzyme function. These topics can also be easily tied to hydrogen bonding and electrostatic interaction in chemistry/biochemistry.
Weronika, E., & Łukasz, K. (2016). Tardigrades in Space Research – Past and Future. Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere : the journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, 47(4), 545-553.