In science fiction, human settlements on Mars and other planets are often presented as futuristic buildings made of metal and glass. However, in reality, the habitat of future colonists may be more “green”, NASA experts believe.
They are developing a technology for growing various structures from fungi, or rather, from mycelium. This is a vegetative body of mushrooms, consisting of thin branched threads.
The principal investigator of the project, astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild notes that for the existing, proposed design solutions for future colonists, transportation of building materials and necessary equipment from Earth will require fabulous costs.
Mushroom houses grown right on the spot are a promising and low-cost alternative.
According to experts, under certain conditions, “colonies” of the thinnest filaments of mycelium are able to be combined into larger structures and create complex structures. For example, fruit bodies of mushrooms or … building blocks .
During a space flight, the mycelium will be “inactive”, and upon arrival to the moon or Mars, it will be possible to literally grow houses, as well as furniture and other necessary items, from it. To do this, mushroom preparations will just need to be filled with water.
By the way, back in 2018, the authors of the project demonstrated one of the first prototypes – a mushroom stool. It was grown from mycelium for two weeks, after which it was baked to make a dry and durable piece of furniture.
As Lynn Rothschild explains, the key to the success of this project was the use of cyanobacteria , which in the process of photosynthesis release oxygen and substances necessary for the growth of mycelium.
According to the researchers, future homes will have a three-layer structure. The outer layer will consist of water ice, which can be mined on the Moon or Mars . It will protect against radiation.
The second layer – from cyanobacteria – will absorb the light passing through the ice. Microorganisms will produce oxygen for humans and nutrients for the last layer – mycelium.
This inner layer will serve as a framework for the “living house”. First, the mycelium will need to be activated for growth in a closed environment (inside the frame), and then bake building blocks.
At the same time, even if some strands of mycelium somehow “escape”, they will not be able to grow. To prevent this, there will be genetic changes introduced by the creators. That is, the mycelium will be viable only in certain conditions created by people.
It is important to note that mycelium can also be used to filter water, extract minerals from wastewater, regulate humidity and even bioluminescent lighting . In addition, houses that can self-heal in case of damage can be created from it.
So far, however, these possibilities are only theoretical: scientists intend to study them in future works.
Also, the authors of the project do not exclude the possibility that one day “mushroom” houses may appear on Earth. This approach will reduce the carbon emissions generated by the construction industry.