A type of mushroom found at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was sent into space in a research project aimed at keeping astronauts safe from radiation on space missions.
“The biggest danger to humans in space exploration missions is radiation,” the researchers explained in an abstract section of a paper posted on the bioRxiv’s pre-press release. The fungus, which thrives in Chernobyl, appears to be performing “radiosynthesis” with melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy.
The impact of radiation is a particular problem in long-term space flights to cities like Mars.
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Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Stanford University and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics have set up a research project using the fungus Cladosporium sphaerospermum. According to Phys.org, astronauts on the International Space Station monitored a mushroom-containing petri dish.
“The growth of Cladosporium sphaerospermum and its ability to mitigate ionizing radiation has been studied aboard the International Space Station (ISS) over 30 days as an analogue to living on the surface of Mars,” scientists explained in an abstract way published in bioRxiv. .
The study found that the fungus can be grown in space.
“The design of a subtle but simple experimental setup, implemented as a small payload, could demonstrate that a melanized fungus of C. sphaerospermum can be cultivated in LEO. [Low Earth Orbit], while subject to the unique environment of microgravity and radiation of the ISS, “the scientists write. “The growth characteristics further suggest that the fungus not only adapts, but also thrives and protects against radiation in accordance with analogous studies on Earth.”
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Further innovative research related to the Chernobyl disaster is under way.
Earlier this year, for example, scientists at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom announced the development of materials that they thought could be used to help shut down the Chernobyl nuclear reactors and the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. The materials, developed with scientists in Ukraine, can simulate Lava-like Fuel Containing Materials (LFCM), which are hampering efforts to decommission nuclear disasters.
“LFCMs are a mixture of highly radioactive molten nuclear fuel and building materials that melt together during nuclear melting,” the scientists explained in a statement. However, very few samples of hazardous material are available, so the simulated material could help scientists plan future decommissioning efforts.
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The research is published in the journal Nature Materials Degradation.
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