Why NASA is Studying Fungi


A few years ago researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York made an interesting discovery. Fungi were found growing around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor (in Ukraine, then officially the Ukrainian SSR) that exploded and released radioactive particles in 1986. The researchers hypothesized that the fungi were proliferating because they could use the radiation as a source of energy. Their report concluded that the fungi found around the reactor contained melanin which would allow the fungi to generate energy in the same way that plants use chlorophyll to convert sunlight to biological chemical energy. Researchers at NASA are now building on this study to conduct a thorough analysis of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on fungal growth in space.