An ISS experiment appears to demonstrate the usefulness of Cladosporium sphaerospermum, a Chernobyl mushroom, to shield cosmic radiation for astronaut missions to the Moon or Mars. There are roganisms that transform radioactivity into energy to be consumed and are able to proliferate even in one of the perhaps most inhospitable places in the world, in terms of emissions of this type, like the Chernobyl cooling tanks.
Right there, scientists years ago, they found a mushroom that could serve to create shields for radiation in deep space, for future missions to the Moon or Mars, where astronauts will not be able to count on the protection of the Earth's magnetic field.
T he study that proposes to use this biotechnology has not yet been published in a journal, awaits a review and is available in the freely accessible online archive, bioarxiv. But the conclusions reached by researchers from the University of North Carolina, Stanford and NASA Ames research center seem promising.
Some species of fungi discovered about thirty years ago near and inside the Ukrainian nuclear power plant, the scene of the most serious radioactive accident in history, seem to use radiation as fuel for what has been called radio-synthesis.
The Chernobyl mashromm and the Gamma rays
Gamma rays, the most powerful, ionizing and dangerous for humans, are converted into chemical energy thanks to the melanin, which they are supplied with. A cultivation of one of these mushrooms was sent for an experiment on the International Space Station.
The aim was to verify the possibility of cultivating them in microgravity but, above all, to test their 'superpowers' In Chernobyl the radiation level is hundreds or thousands of times more intense than the background.
During a year, on average, a person on Earth is exposed to about 6.2 millisieverts while an astronaut on the International Space Station it is exposed to approximately 114 mSv. On a mission of three years, in one year, an astronaut would be exposed to about 400 mSv, mainly from galactic cosmic radiation.
The ideal therefore would be to be able to cultivate the shield in orbit, during the journey to, say, Mars (which does not have a magnetic field and has a very rarefied atmosphere), or directly in situ, using, as research suggests , a mixture of mushrooms and Martian powder.
The same solution could be used for the moon. The Artemis program and the space base in cislunar orbit, the Gateway, are missions that foresee the stay of astronauts even for weeks, up to imagine a colony with a permanent garrison in the next decades.