Countless movies have been made about aliens attacking vulnerable astronauts as they explore the cosmos. But in real life, the greatest threat to space travellers’ health will probably come from earth-based hitch-hikers. By studying volunteers living for 30 days in this sealed spaceship simulator in a car park, NASA scientists have discovered that the presence of these ‘astronauts’ affects the types of microscopic fungi living alongside them. The researchers found that the numbers of certain kinds of fungi increased while the volunteers were living in the simulator, including harmful ones that can live in or on the body and cause allergies, asthma and skin infections. There’s a worry that the stressful conditions inside space ships and stations might bring down the astronauts’ immune defences, making them more likely to pick up fungal diseases. Knowing how fungal populations change in these environments will reveal how best to protect our future space explorers.
Written by Kat Arney
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