Tardigrade Stories From Space – Literally

UW’s Boothby to Join Story Time from International Space Station

September 18, 2020 head photo of a man Thomas Boothby, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Molecular Biology, will participate in a “Story Time from Space” episode — beamed from the International Space Station — Monday, Sept. 21, at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time. (UW Photo)

A University of Wyoming molecular biologist will participate in a “Story Time from Space” episode — beamed from the International Space Station — Monday, Sept. 21.

Thomas Boothby will join a live downlink for children featuring a story about tardigrades, also known as water bears. Tardigrades are a special focus of Boothby, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Molecular Biology. The program begins at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time and can be accessed at https://storytimefromspace.com/live/ or at https://youtu.be/Sff4YbecHEM.

Astronaut Chris Cassidy, aboard the space station, will read “Willow the Water Bear” by author Houston Kidd. Cassidy will then answer questions from children around the world.

Boothby, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will help answer questions about tardigrades and his research at UW. Boothby will join other special guests that include astronauts Alvin Drew and Bjarni Tryggvason; author and astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett; and Kidd.

Boothby and his colleagues at UW are studying how the diminutive creatures — less than half a millimeter long — can survive being completely dried out; being frozen to just above absolute zero, about minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit, when all molecular motion stops; heated to more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit; irradiated several thousand times beyond what a human can withstand; and survive the vacuum of outer space.

Boothby’s lab has prepared an experiment that is scheduled to hitch a ride this November on a SpaceX rocket to the space station. That experiment will study if tardigrades cope with the stresses of space the same as they do on Earth.

For information about Boothby’s lab, personnel and research, go to https://tboothby.weebly.com.

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