Mycelium Might Help NASA Build Bases on the Moon and Mars

The mycelium, a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment, and the vegetative part of it could maybe help to build lunar bases and Mars outposts.

“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle — carrying our homes with us on our backs,” stated Lynn Rothschild, principal project investigator of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. “A reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” she added. “Instead, we can harness mycelia to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there.”

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is helping Rothschild and her team with funds. They support and encourage possible revolutionary exploration technologies. If this project is successful, it will undoubtedly be game-changing.

“Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars,” said NASA officials. “Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat — all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.”

Habitat concepts

NASA officials explained that one habitat would be in the form of three layers. The layer of the surface will consist of water ice, which can be harbored on both Mars and the moon. The ice would guard the human inhabitants from toxic radiation.

It will also provide resources for photosynthesizing microbes called cyanobacteria, which from the the middle layer. The bottom layer consists of the chief component. The astronauts and nutrients will get oxygen for the fungal mycelia with the help of these creatures.

That fundamental layer sets out the core structure of the environment. The mycelia that will survive would be severely processed until it will kill the fungus, making sure that non of these creatures could escape and multiply on alien land. All fungi used for this project would be genetically altered to disable them from staying alive beyond the base, said NASA officials.

Other properties of Mycelium

According to NASA, the fungi could be able to help filter water for off-Earth pioneers and withdraw minerals from their sewage. Myco-architecture could be of help on Earth as well, for example, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the construction industry maybe.

“When we design for space, we’re free to experiment with new ideas and materials with much more freedom than we would on Earth,” Rothschild said. “And after these prototypes are designed for other worlds, we can bring them back to ours.”

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