This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
One of the biggest concerns when astronauts leave Earth for another planet, or when they build a habitat on Mars, is exposure to cosmic radiation. Currently, the United States and several other countries are developing manned missions to Mars, but data from past missions indicate that astronauts will receive at least 60 percent of the acceptable radiation exposure in their lifetime just from one round trip to Mars. Also, Mars does not have a magnetic field to protect the surface from cosmic radiation, nor does it have a thick atmosphere like Earth does.
So, how can we solve this problem? Stainless steel, for example, can serve as a shielding for space radiation if we use it to build a habitat on Mars, but the time and expense of launching and transporting the necessary materials from the Earth would be prohibitive.
One possible solution to this problem was discovered by researchers at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina: mold. The researchers say they found that a fungus collected from near the site of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine that can grow in a radioactive environment could block space radiation on the station and also protect astronauts heading to the moon and Mars.
The fungus has the ability to absorb radiation and convert it into its own energy. The researchers worked with NASA to send samples of one of these molds, "Cladosporium sphaerospermum," to the International Space Station (ISS) in a petri dish. They compared the dose transmitted through the Petri dishes with that of an empty petri dish over a period of 30 days, and found that the amount of radiation transmitted through the dish with the mold was reduced by about 2%. Of course, a 2% reduction in radiation alone is not enough to bring the cosmic radiation down to a safe level, but if the Mars base were covered with a 21 cm layer of mold, it would be possible to mitigate the effects of radiation exposure on the surface.
We know that molds can grow with radiation, so we can minimize the amount we send to Mars. By providing it with small amounts of nutrients on the surface of Mars, it will be possible to increase it to the required level.
Note that the fungus used in this experiment alone will not provide all the radiation protection for future astronauts landing on the red planet of Mars; NASA tested the radiation protection vest on the Orion spacecraft in 2018. We need to look at every possible way to ensure safety on Mars and employ the right materials in the right places.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.