If space agencies want boots on the Moon constructing homes/research facilities is their first hurdle. Traditional building materials create payload challenges, heavy metal and glass take up a lot of room. All that weight puts a strain on fuel requirements. Enter synthetic biology, the study of how we can use life in technology – in this case fungus, as in mushrooms used to grow self repairing, self replicating habitats.
NASA researchers call it myco-architecture. Exploring the potential of Mycelia in fungus – tiny nutrient absorbing underground threads combining with precision and networking to build complex structures we recognize as mushrooms. A statement from NASA –
“Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars. 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.”
A researcher holding a petri dish containing mycelia – the underground threads that make up the main part of a fungus – growing in simulated Martian soil, also known as Martian regolith. Image via NASA/ Ames Research Center/ Lynn Rothschild
A stool constructed out of mycelia after two weeks of growth. The next step is a baking process that leads to a clean and functional piece of furniture. The myco-architecture project seeks to design not only for habitats, but for the furniture that could be grown inside them as well. Image via 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team/ NASA.
Next time you brown bag mushrooms in the produce aisle, take a moment to ponder remarkable legions off unseen mycelia that one day might create mushroom cabins on the Moon.