4 slime molds, or blobs, have been despatched to the Worldwide House Station (ISS) aboard the Cygnus spacecraft that launched on Tuesday. These single-celled organisms known as Physarum polycephalum would be the topic of an academic experiment carried out by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Below the aegis of the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), tens of 1000’s of secondary college college students from September will carry out experiments on this species, which is neither animal, nor plant, nor fungus, in partnership with the CNRS.
Physarum polycephalum consists of a single cell and several other nuclei. It appears to be like like a yellow spongy mass and has no mouth, legs or mind. But it eats, grows, strikes (very slowly), and has superb studying talents.
The creature may divide at will and go dormant by dehydrating. It’s within the dormant state that a number of items of blob will make their journey on board a cargo ship supplying the ISS.
The astronauts will rehydrate them in September in petri dishes on the ISS. In a single experiment, some moulds may have entry to oatmeal whereas others will likely be disadvantaged of meals. This will likely be achieved to grasp if microgravity impacts their behaviour and methods.
The intention is to watch the results of weightlessness on the organism.
“At the moment, nobody is aware of the way it will behave in microgravity: in what route will it transfer, will it tackle the third dimension by going upwards, or obliquely?” asks Pierre Ferrand, a professor of Earth sciences and life seconded to Cnes, one of many initiators of the venture.
On the bottom, 1000’s of blob specimens, belonging to the identical pressure as these on the ISS, will likely be distributed to 4,500 faculties, schools and excessive faculties in France.
When Thomas Pesquet humidifies his blobs on the ISS, the scholars will do the identical in school. They are going to then begin taking footage to check his behaviour with or with out gravity.
As a result of it challenges sure scientific theories, the blob is more likely to provoke many discussions within the classroom.
“For instance, in cell idea, it’s mentioned that each cell divides into two cells. With the blob, this doesn’t work, since it’s a single cell that grows with out ever dividing,” explains Pierre Ferrand.
The blob appeared on Earth greater than 500 million years in the past, lengthy earlier than the animals. For a very long time, it was thought-about a fungus, earlier than being labeled as an amoebozoan within the Nineteen Nineties.