Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mushrooms in Space

Sts126pettit_1108 When the first Star Wars film appeared in 1977, it was a revelation: things in space could be...grimy, or smelly, or worn-out. Remember the trash compactor scene?

This was no news to actual astronauts of the time, who gamely spent weeks in orbit without showers or toilets. They played it down.

Last night it got played up a bit. Gina Sunseri, who reports from Houston for us, passed on this tidbit from the Space Station, currently docked with the shuttle Endeavour:

"Cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov called down to the Russian control room from the International Space Station to report something unexpected in a corner of the space station: mushrooms.

"They aren't an experiment. Somehow mushrooms are growing where they shouldn't be growing in a dank dark corner of the space station."

"So in addition to the toilet, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the fridge, they have a produce garden as well."

We first posted this on the World Newser last night. Since then, Clarissa Ward, our Moscow correspondent, has added a note from there:

"According to Aleksandr Sprin with the Russian mission control:

"'If there’s not enough ventilation in the bathroom then, because it’s damp, the bacteria grows into a fungus. The cosmonauts were apparently hanging their wet towels in the bathroom and then they noticed that on the back wall there were fungi (or mushrooms) growing. The fungi are now being removed with some chemical cleaner.'

Original here

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