Onboard the uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft is the latest series of space science experiments that will be launched in a fortnight. According to Cosmos Magazine, those experiments include fake muscles, a 3D printing project that will turn regolith or Moondust into human habitats, and a brainless slime mold named Blob.

Scientifically known as Physarum polycephalum, Blob can move, feed, and organize itself even without eyes. Scientists also said that it could transmit knowledge to other slime molds. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will observe Blob when it reached the International Space Station (ISS) and explore its eating patterns while in microgravity.

 Blob: The Brainless Single-Celled Slime Mold is Sent to Space to be Observed in Microgravity
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Yellow slime mold (maybe Fuligo genus) in Kranj, Slovenia.

Brainless Slime Mold Named Blob

New York Post reported that Blob, not to be confused with the 1958 sci-fi movie, is scheduled to be launched into the space station next week on August 10 aboard the 16th commercial resupply services mission of Northrop Grumman.

Scientists are intrigued with the brainless slime mold's ability to do cognitive tasks despite not having a brain. Not only can it move, but Blob can also make its own decisions, navigate a maze, and sleep. The team of scientists will record how radiation and microgravity will affect the brainless slime mold as it makes its way to the ISS.

According to NASA, one Blob kit will be sent to ISS for the experiment. The kit includes a box that contains Blob's cells, a 3 mL syringe, a USB capable to power the box, two micro SD cards, and adapters. The SD card will store the video footage of Blob's cell growth or movement every ten minutes for the whole seven-day duration of the experiment in space.

The Blob experiment consists of two protocols: exploration and exploitation. The former involves placing Blob in the center of a circular container without food, while the latter will place Blob in a circular container with a delicious menu of four oat flakes that are 1 centimeter away from Blob.

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Encouraging Students to Learn Biological Sciences

Sending Blob to space is an educational experiment by the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) in collaboration with the French Center for Scientific Research and ESA. Experts believe that Blob will help stimulate students' curiosity about how the environment affects organisms and their development.

 According to CNet, primary, middle, and high school students ages 10-18 years old from over 5,000 schools will conduct similar experiments to compare their results to a time-lapse video from space. This will help scientists observe differences in the speed and growth of Blob on the ground and in an environment with microgravity.

The Blob experiments do not have a direct space application, but one of its goals is to encourage students in France and other member states of ESA to be more immersed in biological sciences and show them how science experiments are done in space.


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