Could we live in mushROOMS on Mars? Maybe!

'Myco-architecture' plans to use fungus to grow structures on other worlds
mushrooms These bricks — made of wood chips, yard waste, and fungi — are part of a building project that could change... space exploration? (2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team)

Right now, space programs are all looking forward to one thing:

Landing humans on other worlds... and keeping them there.

Maybe not forever forever. But permanent colonies both on the Moon and, one day, Mars are very much in the plans. Some of those plans involve how we'll get there. Some involve what we'll wear on the trip.

And others? Well, they're all about what we'll live in. And according to NASA's Ames Research Centre, that structure could be...

Embed from Getty Images

(Not the mushroom house we're talking about...) (Getty Embed)



Oyster mushroom mycelia growing on coffee grounds. (Wikimedia Commons/Tobi Kellner)

Yes! Well, sort of.

In truth, NASA scientists are experimenting with something known as myco-architecture. This is where we grow structures out of living fungi threads known as mycelia. Mycelia are kind of like roots in a plant.

You might not think so when you look at it, but mycelia are capable of being grown into particular forms. According to NASA's research, these forms can range from something like flat leather-like pieces to blocks that can be used like bricks. Once the mycelia bricks are baked — to both stop the growth and make them extra solid — they're ready to use as building material.

Why fungi?


"Uh... it will look better after we bake it." A two-week old mycelia structure before it hits the oven. (2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team)

It all sounds really cool — and even stranger than the strangest science fiction. But why would we use fungi for this kind of job?

One of the greatest challenges in building a structure on the Moon or Mars? Getting the material there. You can't just drive out to some lunar Home Depot and grab a bunch of lumber. Everything you build with has to be brought out there by the astronauts. And that is time-consuming and very expensive.

So naturally, scientists have experimented with the idea that we could somehow use material that already exists on the planet. This has included designs for ice domes (ice does exist on Mars).

Though mycelia does not exist on Mars (that we know of!), it is a material that scientists believe they could grow on its surface. With a little help from science. A little fungi could go a long way toward building a habitat for humans. And if something gets damaged, we could even grow it back and repair it.

Kind of makes us wonder why we're not doing that already here. We want to live in a mushroom!

Watch a concept video from the Ames Research Centre below.

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