The world learned last week that pigs can fly. They’re just not very good at landing.
Now, in a normal world, that revelation would have been major news. But, of course, we don’t live in a normal world and there was far too much tragedy to report last week and the relentless ratings quest of Trump’s surreality show for that little news item to percolate to the surface of most media outlets.
But, buried under the grim news of double mass shootings and the president’s seizure of the moment to talk about himself, we learned that an Israeli spacecraft had inadvertently violated the prime directive of all science fiction which is to never interfere with, contaminate or influence an alien world.
The result: Pigs in space or, to be more precise, pigs on the moon.
It seems that, just prior to the launch by a private Israeli aerospace company known as SpaceIL, the company’s Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”) spacecraft got an additional payload to carry on that country’s first attempt at a moon landing. Perhaps taking the name of the unmanned spacecraft a little too literally, the scientists agreed to allow a veritable Noah’s Ark to hitch a ride.
The last-minute payload included samples of human DNA along with 30 million digital pages of information about life on Earth and thousands – yes, thousands – of the most indestructible creatures in the universe not named Godzilla or Trump.
Those creatures are known scientifically as tardigrades, but also go by the more common name of moss piglets, cute little animals that resemble fat maggots with a mouth and eight legs each tipped with four claws. Google a picture and you’ll want one for a pet. If you’re really weird.
But the piglets are unique in that they are virtually indestructible. They can not only survive – and do – in any environment on Earth, they can also live in the vacuum of space. And they’ll eat anything. Even green cheese.
The Beresheet spacecraft, which successfully launched in February, carried literally tuns of the creatures. That spelling is correct. A tun refers to the piglet’s unique ability to put itself into a state of suspended animation. They secrete all the water from their bodies, roll up into a tiny ball known as a “tun” and can survive for up to 10 years in that state before being reanimated and going on with their lives.
Beresheet made it to the moon in April but crashed on its landing attempt, potentially scattering thousands of moss piglets and human DNA across the lunar surface. The piglets, if they encounter any of the water known to exist in the moon’s cold, shaded, frozen craters, could theoretically revive and thrive. And any fan of cheesy 1950s science fiction movies knows that cosmic rays in space can cause strange mutations in just about any living creature including human DNA.
So what will we find when we eventually return humans to the moon? Thanks to the Israelis (no kosher jokes, please) we might discover it has been taken over by a race of Miss Piggys.