The Magic of Mushrooms—How Fungi Could Help Build Space Colonies

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Space Colonies May Rely on Fungi for Building Materials!

So, it’s 2020. By all rights, if you’re my age and you grew up watching Marty McFly, then we’re in “The Future!” [Imagine my best Christopher Lloyd impression on that one] And okay. Maybe we don’t have real hoverboards (shut up kid, that’s not a real hoverboard). And yeah. Maybe we don’t have flying cars. But we will have colonies on the Moon and Mars in my lifetime. Space colonies appear to be where the zeitgeist is heading, make no mistake. The implications of such progress remain hidden, but if history is to be believed, there’ll be blood and tears shed, along with some incredible triumphs as we get there. 

NASA’s spent a lot of time investing in ideas for Martian habitats. In fact, the winning design is actually something I’d love to live in here on Earth! They’ve also spent tons of resources on launch vehicles, research into landers, and not least important, how to build space colonies once we get there.

The reality is, weight costs money when it comes to space. So you can’t just ship a bunch of concrete and re-bar up to the Moon and say, “Have at ‘er, folks!”  Nope. Instead, the building materials for these new colonies are going to have to be “home” (er… Moon/Mars) grown. 

Enter The Fungi! (Don’t Worry, He’s a Fun Guy)

Sorry. That’s the only time, I promise. 

Prototype of fungus based habitat for space colonies

A prototype of a fungus-based habitat for space colonies

So, if future colonists on Mars or the Moon will have to build their own habitats, how are they going to do it?  Well, regardless of which celestial body the space colonists are on, they’ll have to use mostly resources that are already there. Both planets have an abundance of one thing, and that’s rock. Rocks are useful for making concrete and other building materials if you use them correctly.

That winning habitat design for Mars I mentioned earlier? It uses basalt along with a plant-based cement to 3D print the habitat. In the case of the new fungus idea, NASA researchers are hoping to use fast-growing fungi to provide a quick habitat. According to 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.” They added, “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.”

 

Permanent Space Colonies

The fungi-shelter idea will be great for the first colonists who arrive. However, there are a lot of factors to consider when designing a habitat for space colonies. One of the biggest factors is solar radiation. The basalt-based Martian habitats take care of that because basalt is a natural insulator. Researchers plan on using several layers of fungus habitat to deal with those kinds of issues.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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