Scientists are pondering how to make a radiation shield for astronauts from mushrooms. The thing is that there is a special species – Cladosporium sphaerospermum – thriving in conditions of high radiation. Read more about this in the article, the preprint of which was published on BioRxiv.
Cladosporium sphaerospermum is able not only to block radiation, but actually uses it to grow through radio synthesis: it extracts energy from radiation, just like most plants extract energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. These radiation-loving mushrooms survive on Earth in extreme places, such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
This type of mushroom also thrives in space. In 2019, researchers brought some mushrooms to the ISS to observe how they would grow over the course of 30 days. In addition, the cosmonauts measured the amount of radiation transmitted through them in comparison with a control sample, which did not contain fungi.
The experiment showed that the radiation levels under the 1.7 millimeter thick layer of fungus were about 2.17% lower than in the sample. Moreover, the fungus grew about 21% faster than on Earth.
According to scientists, on Mars, in order to reduce the level of radiation to Earth’s, the habitat must be covered with a layer of radio-synthesizing fungi 2.3 meters thick. The same effect could be achieved by burying the habitat under 3 m of Martian mud – regolith.