Often associated with all things deadly, radiation is usually regarded as an evil force that could potentially derail our journey to the heavens. With scientists seeking out ways to shield our shuttles from the side affects (i.e. cancer) of radiation, it looks like one researcher has discovered an organism that enjoys living in the radioactive lime light.
(Space Daily) “The fungal kingdom comprises more species than any other plant or animal kingdom, so finding that they’re making food in addition to breaking it down means that Earth’s energetics-in particular, the amount of radiation energy being converted to biological energy-may need to be recalculated,” says Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of microbiology and immunology at Einstein and senior author of the study, published May 23 in PLoS ONE.
The ability of fungi to live off radiation could also prove useful to people: “Since ionizing radiation is prevalent in outer space, astronauts might be able to rely on fungi as an inexhaustible food source on long missions or for colonizing other planets,” says Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, associate professor of nuclear medicine and microbiology and immunology at Einstein and lead author of the study.
Although eating fungi may not sound that appealing, scientists may be able to find a way to incorporate the genes of these fungi inside plants. Doing so would enable our species to thrive off world without heavy dependence on Earth.
Coupled with anti-radiation drugs (of
space cattle certain animals), humanity may be able to create ecosystems on foreign soils such as Ganymede and Mars, helping to turn hostile worlds into inhabitable ones.