Slime in Space!


BLAST OFF: Scientists sent a spongy slime mold to the International Space Station to observe the effects of weightlessness on the specimen.

Meet Le Blob. This strange creature is a slime mold—a group of single-celled organisms that live together as a jelly-like ooze and can move as a single mass. Last fall, Le Blob traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Scientists wanted to learn how the slime would move in microgravity, or a weightless environment.

A camera snapped photos of the slime mold as it navigated inside a box on board the ISS. Meanwhile, on Earth, more than 300,000 French students also participated in the experiment. In class, they observed their own slime molds under normal conditions. These served as experimental controls, with which scientists could compare Le Blob in space.


SLIME SCIENCE: A French student (left) and biologist Audrey Dussutour (right) observe a sample of slime mold.

One discovery surprised Audrey Dussutour, the French biologist who led the study. On Earth, slime molds move only two-dimensionally, along flat surfaces. In space, Le Blob moved in three dimensions: left and right, forward and backward, and up and down. “It’s an amazing organism,” says Dussutour.

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