Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are ready to welcome an unusual guest, as Spot takes off and enters orbit on Tuesday.
An alien being on her planet, the blob is an unclassifiable organism, neither a fish nor a bird. It is also not plant, animal, or fungal.
As such, Physarum polycephalum, a type of silt, has long fascinated scientists and will now be part of a unique experiment conducted simultaneously by astronauts hundreds of kilometers above Earth and hundreds of thousands of people. French students.
Slime mold first appeared on Earth about 500 million years ago and defies conventional biology because it is made up of a cell with multiple nuclei.
While most organisms grow and reproduce by cell division and reproduction, Physarum polycephalum does not.
“It is a single cell that grows without division,” explains Pierre Ferrand, Professor of Earth and Life Sciences attached to the French space agency CNES, one of the initiators of the project.
Another oddity: “When most organisms are satisfied with two sexes, Blob has more than 720. It’s a ‘staircase’ object that tells us that life consists of many originals,” he identifies.
What can a cell phone do?
A thin, yellowish mucous bump that has no mouth, legs, or brain.
However, despite these obvious shortcomings, mold feeds, grows and moves, albeit very slowly, and has incredible learning abilities.
Because Blob DNA floats freely within cell walls, rather than contained in a nucleus, it can “lose” parts of itself at will.
You can also go into a sleep state when you become dehydrated, and this is called ‘stiffness’.
Here are several parts of the sclerotia that will embark on their journey aboard the ISS supply cargo ship.
When they rehydrate in September, four solids, each the size of a small to medium fingernail, will wake up from their sleep on Petri dish beds.
The samples, both from the same “bubble stem cell” (described by the scientists as LU352), will undergo two protocols: one that will starve some of the subclones; Others will only be able to get one food source: porridge.
The goal is to observe the effects of weightlessness in this organism, but as an educational experiment, a giant school experiment that reaches into space. Scientific papers are not expected as part of the mission design.
“No one knows how it will behave in a microgravity environment: in which direction will it move? Does it take the third dimension up or sideways?” Veran asks.
“I would be curious to see if this turns into plumes,” explains Bubble Specialist Audrey Dessautour, Director of the Center for Research in Animal Cognition.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, thousands of cut samples of the same LU352 strain will be distributed to about 4,500 schools and colleges in France.
“More than 350,000 students will ‘touch’ the point,” explains Kristen Koresher, who heads up the space agency’s educational program.
Later this month, teachers will receive sets containing three to five hardenings.
When parts of the spot are reborn in space, their clusters will also be hydrated on Earth.
The observations will then begin to compare differences in how the samples have adapted in space compared to those on Earth, which may shed light on fundamental questions surrounding the building blocks of life.
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