(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.
(This is a Go For Launch! experiment...)While engineers, astronomers and even sociologists are working diligently to address the issues preventing humanity from reaching distant planets, one problem has long remained unattended - how to defend cosmic pioneers from one of humanity's biggest space hazards - rampant radiation.
Students from Chicago region compete to launch their ideas to the International Space Station, just like the local team Reginae Reginarum did in November 2019.On Aug. 3-4, high-school students attending the Higher Orbits Go For Launch! program work with Captain Wendy Lawrence, who is a retired naval aviator and astronaut, and scientists to create research proposals and projects that will compete to be developed and launched in coming months.
Mold from Chernobyl seems to feed on radiation, and new research suggests it could help protect astronauts in space
(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.
(This is a Go For Launch! experiment...)Being an astronaut certainly has its high points, but with that unrivalled opportunity to venture out into space comes an inherent risk faced by those travelling outside the protective cocoon of the Earth’s atmosphere; the ubiquitous presence of radiation that can cause all kinds of unpleasantness from damaging cells or DNA to an increased risk of getting cancer later in life.Finding a way to shield astronauts from the damaging effects of space radiation, not just those stationed on the International Space Station (ISS), but also for those with grand plans to colonise other worlds, is therefore a top priority.