A recent study has come up with a discovery that could pave the way to knowing more about space, with the help of fungi found growing inside the Chernobyl reactor that exploded decades ago causing the largest nuclear disaster in history.
Protecting astronauts from deadly cosmic rays is one of the biggest challenges facing manned flights to Mars. Some scientists at different universities have talked about an unconventional solution to this problem by developing shields using a fungus that grows near a Chernobyl reactor that absorbs radiation.
The New Scientist journal stated that the fungus succeeded in blocking some cosmic rays during a test aboard the International Space Station, which represents a hope that guarantees a safe travel in space in the future.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities published their study on the Internet last week, stating that a thin layer of swollen streptococcus mushrooms succeeded in blocking 2% of the cosmic rays that fell on them during the test aboard the International Space Station.
Although this is not enough to protect the astronauts, the test was done using a thin layer of fungus that is no more than two millimeters thick. Scientists believe that a layer of 21 centimeters thick of mushrooms is enough to protect astronauts on Mars.
The Journal of the New Scientist reported that researchers studied fixing mushrooms in the tissues of the astronaut’s suits. The ability of the fungus to reproduce is the biggest advantage of the shield because it helps repair damaged parts.
Nils Aversh, co-author of the study, told the New Scientist journal that few grams of fungus are sufficient to develop the shield. He added that the ability of the mushrooms to reproduce helps to repair the affected parts within several days.
Researchers said that these fungi can absorb nuclear radiation as well as harmful cosmic rays, which makes them eligible to protect humans from this deadly radiation, which may open the way for exploration of more space secrets, or even the establishment of future Mars colonies, according to the scientific journal “New Scientist”. The most prestigious British.
In 1991, 5 years after the Chernobyl disaster, black fungi were found sprouting over the remains of the abandoned reactor walls.
After studying these fungi, scientists discovered that they grow towards radiation as if they were attracted to it, because they contain pigments that allow them to absorb harmful rays and convert them into energy.
These fungi work in the same way that plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose in photosynthesis.
Exposure to cosmic rays poses a great danger to astronauts who leave the protective atmosphere of the Earth, and can be protected with shields of steel and other materials, but these materials must be shipped from Earth, which is difficult and expensive.
“What makes fungi a great solution, is that you only need a few grams to start,” said Nils Afrish, a researcher at Stanford University and co-author of the study, for New Scientist, referring to their rapid growth and reproduction.
Afrish noted that the fungi reproduce themselves, and “even with a strong solar flare, you will be able to grow again in a few days.”
The results of the study have not been published yet, leaving the scientific community waiting for the conclusion that could revolutionize human protection from radiation.