A blob will join Thomas Pesquet in space

Yellow like a lemon, spread out like a mushroom, it is the blob. For decades, this “animal-mushroom”, a slime mold by its scientific name, has fascinated researchers.

→ EXPLANATION. The blob “eats” to memorize

Without eyes, mouth, nervous system or brain, the blob is nevertheless capable of going into “hibernation”, of learning, of memorizing, and of transmitting information to other congeners with which it merges!

“Blob kits” for 4,000 classes

If a whole scientific community is interested in its formidable capacities, it is rather for its ease of culture that the blob will join space and the International Space Station (ISS) this Tuesday, August 10 in the evening. A Cygnus cargo vessel will launch from Wallops base, on the east coast of the United States, with 3,700 kg of various equipment. And in the batch, Petri dishes containing dehydrated blobs – a condition in which yellowish pseudo-fungi can survive for decades.

On board the ISS, astronaut Thomas Pesquet is tasked with resuscitating these giant and sticky cells for two experiments ” educational rather than scientific »We recognize at the Center for Space Studies (Cnes). Because, in parallel with the French astronaut, more than 4000 classes from CE2 to the final year will also observe and experiment with blobs from the same strain. Volunteer establishments will receive a “blob kit” at the start of the school year.

Hungry blobs in a space station

The first manipulation aims to study the movements of the jelly animal for food. In its natural habitat, the undergrowth, the blob feeds on fungi and bacteria. But in the classroom and in the space, oatmeal will ensure breakfast. The blob is known for its network optimization capabilities: it explores possible paths to find the most efficient way to reach a source of energy.

The second experiment, on the contrary, will starve the blobs. The idea is to see how the blob, which can double in size every day, will develop to seek a source of food. On Earth, and therefore in classrooms, the blob grows horizontally due to gravity. But in space, in weightlessness, maybe the slime molds will form columns or shapes worthy of crystals? In any case, to prevent the hungry mold from swallowing up the space station by spreading like in a bad sci-fi scenario, the space blobs will remain locked in a sterile and secure box.

Students will then compare their ground blobs with the specimens in the ISS. More than for the rather limited scientific interest, this joint experience aims to promote a taste for science and the experimental approach among middle and high school students. “Breeding” of the blob is relatively easy, it is particularly resistant, low demand in resources and visually impressive. An ideal object of study.


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