July 28, 2020

Mold from Chernobyl seems to feed on radiation, and new research suggests it could help protect astronauts in space

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(This experiment is a Go For Launch! experiment…)

Astronauts take many risks in space, but exposing themselves to dangerous radiation is one of the biggest. On the International Space Station, astronauts are exposed to up to 160 millisieverts of radiation during a six-month mission, according to NASA, — that’s about 1,600 chest x-rays, and 26 times more than the average US citizen receives. Mars is even worse; an astronaut making an 18-month round trip to the red planet would be exposed to 1,000 millisieverts of radiation, or 10,000 chest x-rays’ worth.

For protection, astronauts generally rely on radiation shields made of plastics or metals like aluminum and stainless steel. But these can be heavy and vulnerable to damage.

So in 2018, some high school students from Durham County, North Carolina proposed an unusual solution to this problem: Make a shield out of mold.