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For Holiday Celebrations and Space Radiation, Yeast is the Key

Holiday images made from white yeast growing in petri dishes against green, gold and red backgrounds.
NASA Ames/Dominic Hart
Drawing of a white snowflake appears over time in a petri dish on blue background.
NASA Ames/Dominic Hart

As you consume copious amounts of baked goods this holiday season, like delicious sweet breads, sticky cinnamon buns and crusty dinner rolls, know that one of the key ingredients is helping NASA learn about space radiation and how to protect humans on future space missions.

Yeast – just like the stuff that makes dough rise – will stand in for humans in a biology experiment flying on a small satellite, called BioSentinel. When it launches into space, BioSentinel will study the effect that the high-energy radiation encountered in deep space has on yeast cells. This will provide clues about how human health could be affected out there and how we might protect future astronauts. Learn more about BioSentinel and its deep-space biology experiment here.

In celebration of the holidays and this incredibly useful yeast, talented artists from the BioSentinel mission team drew these wintry designs. Their medium: BioSentinel’s yeast itself, growing on a nutrient-rich gel used in biology labs.

So, when you’re indulging in some of that bready goodness this season, remember the yeast that is helping future space explorers reach their destination safely.