Why build Moon and Mars bases out of metal when we could grow them from mushrooms?
That’s a question on NASA’s agenda these days. Recently, they shared an update on their research regarding the myco-architecture project — the possibility of growing planetary surface structures from fungal mycelium.
Mycelium is the complex, thread-like network of fungus that may, for example, be found beneath mushrooms and fairy rings.
After all, space exploration is a difficult endeavor. One of our greatest obstacles is weight — it takes a lot of space and fuel to send materials out of Earth’s atmosphere. But if we could produce said materials off-planet, right where we need them to be, that would make a world of difference.
“Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.”
One of the ideas NASA is working on involves a three-layered dome, housing its own ecosystem. On the outside would be a protective layer of “frozen water ice,” collected from the surrounding environment. This would both shield the inner layers from radiation and provide them with water.
For the second layer, NASA would employ the use of cyanobacteria, which gains energy through oxygenic photosynthesis. Give it sunlight and it would “convert water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and fungus food.” This would allow the mycelium, the final layer, to survive, and provide oxygen to astronauts.
The process would then involve guiding the networks of mycelium to form the desired structures.
“With the right conditions,” NASA stated in their press release, “they can be coaxed into making new structures – ranging from a material similar to leather to the building blocks for a Mars habitat.”
Notably, they shared an image of a stool that had been created from mycelia using this process. It took about two weeks, and looks like something out of the Super Mario Bros. movie:
After the final shape is achieved, the fungus is “baked to kill the lifeforms” and to add structural integrity.
It’s truly compelling stuff. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little disappointed. Why? Because when I hear “mushroom buildings,” there’s only one thing I think of: Sadrith Mora. Morrowind.
Houses literally made of giant mushrooms.
“The actual town of Sadrith Mora is built in typical Telvanni style: great, magically-formed organic mushrooms springing from the ground, each being expanded to suit the needs of the inhabitant…” – UESP
Once we figure out how to magically conjure up gigantic mushrooms from the ground, we’ll really be in business.