Space Gets Slimed: New Satellite Will Monitor Mold Growth in Space

University students in Japan are building a slime-mold–housing micro-satellite that will orbit the Earth and send back photos of the creature’s growth. The small satellite will transmit the pictures to Earth using amateur radio.

The Microbial Observation Satellite, TeikyoSat-3, is a project of Teikyo University and is a small satellite project of the Space System Society at the university’s Utsunomiya campus. 

TeikyoSat-3 weighs 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and is designed to study the impact of space radiation and the microgravity environment on a mold called Dictyostelium discoideum. This species of soil-living amoeba belongs to the phylum Mycetozoa and is often given the less than high-brow biological label of “slime mold.”

The life cycle of D. discoideum is relatively short, which allows for timely viewing of all the stages of its life.

TeikyoSat-3 is slated for launch on Japan’s H-IIA booster in Japanese Fiscal Year 2013, and will ride along with the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) main satellite, officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) public affairs department told SPACE.com.

The GPM spacecraft was jointly developed by JAXA and NASA as part of an international network of satellites that provide next-generation global observations of rain and snow.

Image: Fungi growth on the International Space Station, observed on a panel where post-exercise clothing was hung to dry. 

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