The NRL experiment will use mushroom samples to investigate the effects of cosmic radiation outside of Earth‘s protective magnetosphere.
In addition to being found in the human environment, fungi differ in their natural mechanisms to protect and repair DNA damage caused by radiation. The purpose of the experiment is to understand the protective properties of mushrooms, as well as a general study of how biological systems adapt to deep space.
The scientists will study four different strains of fungi: one wild strain and three mutated strains that have been genetically modified in the lab. Two of the mutated strains are deficient in DNA repair pathways, while the third mutated strain is deficient in melanin production.
“We hope to gain knowledge to develop new ways to protect astronauts and equipment during space flights. As fungi adapt to the space environment, they may also produce new biomolecules that may have therapeutic potential,” said Zheng Wang, NRL microbiologist and principal investigator for the project.
While NRL has a long history in space exploration, dating back to testing the V-2 rocket in the late 1940s, this will be the first biological project for the lab to go into space.
After the Orion spacecraft completes its mission, fungal samples will be returned to NRL for thorough analysis.
The NRL experiment is one of four space biology studies selected for Biological Experiment 01 (BioExpt-01) aboard the Orion spacecraft by NASA’s Space Biology Program.
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