In 1991, scientists discovered a strange form of fungi growing at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The organisms seem to feed on radiation, converting gamma rays into energy for growth. Now, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Stanford University are exploring whether these "radiotrophic fungi" could protect astronauts living on the Moon or Mars. A big benefit is that the fungus self-replicate so the material could be grown upon arrival rather than having to be carried into space from Earth. Experiments conducted on the International Space Station suggest that growing a layer of fungus on top of Mars rock could result in a sufficient shield for people stationed on the Red Planet. From their technical paper in bioRxiv
In search of innovative radiation-shields, biotechnology holds unique advantages such as suitability for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), self-regeneration, and adaptability. Certain fungi thrive in high-radiation environments on Earth, such as the contamination radius of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Analogous to photosynthesis, these organisms appear to perform radiosynthesis, using pigments known as melanin to convert gamma-radiation into chemical energy. It is hypothesized that these organisms can be employed as a radiation shield to protect other lifeforms.[...]
Estimations based on linear attenuation coefficients indicated that a ~ 21 cm thick layer of this fungus could largely negate the annual dose-equivalent of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, whereas only ~ 9 cm would be required with an equimolar mixture of melanin and Martian regolith. Compatible with ISRU (in-situ resource utilization), such composites are promising as a means to increase radiation shielding while reducing overall up-mass, as is compulsory for future Mars-missions.
image: "Cryptococcus neoformans stained with light India ink," CDCP (public domain)
During the January 2019 total lunar eclipse, astronomers trained the Hubble Telescope on our moon in order to calibrate how future telescopes will look for possible life on exoplanets by measuring ozone levels.
Watch the skies! The peak of the Perseid meteor shower takes place overnight tonight! The bright quarter Moon will limit the number of shooting stars you’ll see but you can still expect around 15-20 per hour depending on where you’re at. The meteors are debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up in Earth’s atmosphere at speeds […]
Piloting a craft through Jupiter’s atmosphere would be very hard due to massive bolts of “shallow lightning” and the equally scary giant “mushballs” of water and ammonia that fall like hail. To celebrate the 9th anniversary of Juno, NASA shared some cool illustrations and a visualization of what it would feel like to fly through […]
If you want swole arms cut like tree trunks, you start savaging the curl bars. If you want to sculpt a tight, firm core, you have lots of planking and bridges in your future. So what do you do if you want to knock out that double chin? Or put a little added definition into […]
Considering the state of our world, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to find lots and lots of people pushed to their breaking point. Anxiety and stress are often constant companions during the best of times. But now, with fear and frustration running rampant, it’s easy to be subsumed by all the distractions and […]
Most of us aren’t constantly beset by poor posture. But all it takes is some subtle misalignment while you’re doing serious hours behind the wheel driving or working away at a desk to do a real number on your back. In fact, most of us are so unaware of the mechanics of good posture that […]