August 7, 2020

Fungi From Chernobyl Could Be Used As A Radiation-Shield In Space

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(This article is about one of our Go For Launch! student experiments…)

he site of the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 is still beaming with radiation. Yet even in these inhospitable conditions some life has managed to survive and thrive by munching their way through the radiation itself.

So-called “black fungi”, or radiotrophic fungi, harnesses the power of melanin (the skin pigment that helps protect us from ultraviolet radiation) to convert gamma-radiation into chemical energy for growth. Previously, this has been touted as a solution to feed astronauts during long space flights, but a new study has reported on the mold’s additional potential as a self-replicating radiation shield that could protect future Mars settlers from the dangers of space. The peculiarities of Chernobyl just keep on growing.