One of the major concerns for astronauts flying to the International Space Station (ISS) is to protect themselves from the harmful space radiations. While we need to save ourselves from radiations even on the Earth, an astronaut leaving the Earth’s shield is vulnerable to these radiations.
To ensure their safety, astronauts currently use protective shields made of stainless steel and other materials. However, the only loophole is the transportation of these materials from Earth to space, making it difficult and expensive.
American researchers Graham K. Shunk and Xavier R. Gomez have proposed a reliable and effective solution to the problem.
In their new study, these scientists have worked and researched on how a radiation-absorbing fungus found in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, the high-radiation spot on Earth, can help in working as a protective shield.
According to them, this fungus mold is capable of absorbing harmful cosmic radiation on the ISS, protecting humans. Moreover, this process is easier as compared to the protective shields made of stainless steel as the Chernobyl fungus is self-replicating.
The fungi, named a Cladosporium sphaerospermum, absorbs ionizing gamma radiation along with using it to produce its own biomass. This process could turn out to be helpful in creating anti-radiation shields for space travellers.
The study first started in December 2018, when researchers cultured the fungi Cladosporium sphaerospermum in a petri dish at ISS for a month. It was found that a 2mm layer of fungus can absorb almost 2% of the cosmic radiation.
The entire research, published in the journal bioRxiv titled ‘A Self-Replicating Radiation-Shield for Human Deep-Space Exploration: Radiotrophic Fungi can Attenuate Ionizing Radiation aboard the International Space Station’ can be read here.