The dot, an organism that fascinates biologists, will fly into space

By SudOuest.fr with AFP

This mysterious creature will join French astronaut Thomas Pesquet on the International Space Station on Tuesday to conduct a science experiment in collaboration with thousands of students on Earth.

It’s an unusual tenant preparing to welcome the International Space Station: the blob, an unclassifiable organism that fascinates biologists, will fly into orbit on Tuesday as the subject of an educational experiment organized by Thomas Bisquet.

From Earth, in the fall, hundreds of thousands of students, second through twelfth grade, will reproduce the experience on these exotic living species, neither animals, nor plants, nor fungi, under the auspices of the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes) in partnership with CNRS.

Physarum polycephalum consists of one cell and several nuclei. Similar to a spongy mass of yellow color, it is devoid of a mouth, legs, and a brain. Yet it eats, grows, moves (very slowly) and has amazing learning abilities.

A science experiment in space…

The creature can also split at will and go dormant (without dying) by dehydration: in this case, called “sclerotia,” several pieces of the point will perform a space baptism, aboard the International Space Station refueling cargo ship.

When the astronaut rehydrates them, in September, four sauces about 0.5 cm long will wake up 400 kilometers from Earth, in Petri dishes, to undergo two protocols: one will test the position of special food points, and the other will save the lucky ones. With a food source – oatmeal.

The goal is to observe the effects of weightlessness on this organism. “Today, no one knows what behavior it will take in microgravity: in which direction will it move, will it take the third dimension through the upward or the inclined direction?” asks Pierre Ferrand, Professor of Earth and Life Sciences seconded to Cnes, one of the initiators of the project.

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… as well as in class

On Earth, thousands of bubble samples, cut from the same strain (LU352) as those from their space congeners, will be distributed to 4,500 schools, colleges and high schools in France.

Institutions were quick to respond to the call for projects. Initially, we planned to provide 2,000 classrooms. But in the face of the influx of recordings, the French National Center for Space Studies and the National Center for Scientific Research made financial efforts to meet 4,500 requests,” says Christine Koresher, head of educational projects at the space agency.

At the end of August and beginning of September, teachers will receive a set containing between 3 and 5 hardenings with a tutorial to conduct the experiment. When Thomas Bisket is there moistening his bubbles, the students will do the same in class. The photo sessions will start after that, so you can compare her behavior with or without cuteness.

The point appeared on Earth more than 500 million years ago, before animals. It was considered a fungus for a long time, before it was expelled from this era to join in the 90s the group of amoeba, of which the amoeba is part.

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