Testing of Chernobyl fungi as radiation shield for astronauts

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A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Stanford University used a type of fungus found in some of the destroyed nuclear reactors at the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant site to shield astronauts through radiation Feasibility tested. He has written a letter describing his work and uploaded it bioRxiv Print Site

NASA officials have made clear their desire to send humans to Mars, but before that happens, many technical challenges have to be overcome – one of the most serious is to protect astronauts from radiation. Without Earth’s protective atmosphere and magnetic field, humans would not live in space, on the moon, or on Mars for very long. Therefore scientists are looking for viable ways to protect astronauts. In this new effort, researchers have built on research showing some types of fungi that are able to thrive in a very high radioactive place on Earth – inside the destroyed reactors at the Chernobyl site in Ukraine. Tests of several types of fungi have shown that they not only survive in earlier reactors, but actually thrive. They have the ability to absorb radiation and convert it into energy for their own use. To explore the possibility of using this type of fungus as a fungus for humans, researchers teamed up with NASA to send a sample of one of the types of fungi found in the Chernobyl-Cladosporium spherospermum to the International Space Station Arranged.

Once the fungus sample reached the ISS, the astronauts monitored the Petri dish installed by the researchers. One side of the Petri dish was coated with fungi; The other party had no fungi and served as a control. A detector was affixed to the back of the Petri dish so that radiation could come through. The detector was monitored for 30 days. The researchers found that the edge of the petri dish was covered with a lower radiation level from the fungus by about 2% than the control side. This alone is insufficient as a protective shield, but this use is indicative that this may be possible. On their own, the fungus is known to grow, meaning that a rocket carrying a human can carry just a small amount with them. Once on Mars, the fungus can be grown on a gradient structure and allowed to thicken, perhaps providing a layer of protection very free.

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more information:
Of Graham. Shank et al. Self-Replicating Radiation-Shield for Human Deep-Space Exploration: Radiotrophic fungi can ionize radiation aboard the International Space Station, bioRxiv (2020). DOI: 10.1101 / 2020.07.16.205534

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