Astronauts positioned at the International Space Station will be joined by an unusual visitor “the Blob”. On Tuesday, the Blob was put into orbit. This living organism, which has been a mystery on Earth, is an uncategorized element. It is neither fish nor poultry. It is also not a plant, animal or fungus.
Blob is basically the simple term for Physarum polycephalum, a slimy mold. Scientists have been curious for many years to learn more about this unique organism that will soon be part of a groundbreaking experiment that will include astronauts living hundreds of kilometers above the Earth’s surface and hundreds of thousands. French students on the ground.
The most interesting fact about the Blob is that it is made up of a cell with multiple nuclei, this simply contradicts traditional biology. Physarum polycephalum does not grow or reproduce by cell division and multiplication, as other organisms do. It originally formed on Earth around 500 million years ago.
According to Pierre Ferrand, professor of Earth and life sciences seconded to the French space agency CNES, while most creatures have only two sexual genders, the Blob has around 720. He said: “ It is a ‘drawer’ organism that shows us that life is made up of a variety of originalities.
Learn more about the 500-year-old Blob
The strangest part about slime mold is that it is a yellowish, spongy mass with no mouth, legs, or brain. Despite these drawbacks, mold eats, grows, moves slowly, and has an incredible capacity for learning. It voluntarily gets rid of part of itself because its DNA floats freely inside its cell walls rather than being confined to a nucleus.
How will the experiment take place?
The blob can also become dormant by becoming dehydrated, a process known as “sclerotia”. In the station, many pieces of these sclerotia will be sent for further experiments.
Four sclerotia, each about the size of a small fingernail, will be awakened by hydrating from their hibernation in their petri dish in September.
The samples, which were extracted from the same “parental blob cell” named LU352, will be subjected to two protocols: one will starve specific sub-blobs, while the other will be allowed to feast on oatmeal porridge.
The goal is to study the effects of weightlessness on this creature as a learning experience, a massive classroom experience that spans space. As part of the mission design, no scientific article is expected.
On the other hand, on Earth, thousands of samples derived from the same LU352 variant will be given to 4,500 French schools and institutions. Teachers will receive kits containing three to five sclerotia by the end of this month. When the portions of the Blob are rehydrated in space, their companions will also be rehydrated on Earth. Then the observations will begin to examine the differences in adaptation of the samples in space relative to Earth. The Blob was sent to the International Space Station on the barrel-shaped spacecraft at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
(Image credit: AP)