They will one day be home to humans on the Moon and Mars, but for now, the first experimental extraterrestrial habitats have been built on Earth with the help of an unexpected ingredient: mushrooms. ing.
American architecture firm Red House is collaborating with NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Bit and Atom Center to build a new bio-habitat (a house made from living things) in space.
The Red House mixes waste biomass from Namibia’s infamous ‘invader’s thickets’ – invasive species drain groundwater and turn fertile areas into deserts – mycelium, whose structure connects fibers It is an underground network that
Its purpose is to make food and, in this case, a sustainable building material that is reportedly stronger than concrete.
Mycelium has the unique property of acting like a glue that holds substrates together [such as construction debris and plants] Together,” Red House founder and chief architect Christopher Maurer told Euronews Next.
How to “grow” a house on Mars?
But producing biomass in space will be more difficult.
But the company has decided to create extraterrestrial designs using materials from the waste stream here on Earth.
They say that an unmanned mission to Mars with a shelter folded inside a sealed bag containing dried algae (more specifically known as ketomorpha, or sea emerald) and dormant mycelium. Imagine arriving.
In situ, a rover vehicle on the surface of Mars will inject Martian-supplied carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water into a sealed bag to rehydrate the algae.
“It’s like blowing up a balloon,” said Maurer.
This reaction produces oxygen that replenishes the structure and at the same time nourishes the mycelium.
The mycelium grows, expands into the desired structural shape, and fuses with the algae to form a rock-hard biomass.
The house will “grow” rather quickly, he added.
“In a dream scenario, if the right kind of pressure is injected, it can be assembled in hours or minutes. To create a solid, dry biomaterial that then becomes an insulator, it would be ideal.” will take four weeks.”
Stronger than concrete and repels radiation
Not only is the fungi-bound biomass leaving the Earth as a very small folded mass, not only remarkable for its ability to turn into “mass matter” at its destination, but it is also “capable of converting high-energy radiation. responsibility [on Mars]into a resource that produces more biomass.”
“Radiation is the main thing that prevents us from going to Mars,” Maurer explained, adding that studies show that mycelium acts as a protective layer against radiation “at a higher level than most materials.” I added that there are.
The project team is building a “macro-scale organism,” Maurer said. “We pretty much design the architecture for the microbes, and then they form the architecture.”
Can Mushrooms Really Make Homes?
Maurer said he had already raised the issue with NASA’s planetary conservation experts, and “they looked at it and said it looked fine.”
“We’re just growing mycelium … and there are different types of seeds that don’t produce mushrooms. They can’t make spores. This is usually a problem with molds and things like that.” he told Euronews Next.
Ultimately, he says, a sealed container poses less risk than sending a human being home to millions of microbes with a gigantic microbiome that can’t be sterilized.
When will mushrooms help colonize the Moon or Mars?
So when will we see mushroom dwellings on the Moon and Mars?
“With Moonshot funding, we have a lot of the pieces in place, so we can do that in a few years. Wait, it could take decades,” Maurer said.
However, the Red House prototype has already passed the proof-of-concept phase at NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) and is currently in Phase 2, called Architectural Design Development. Phase 3 is a small demonstration.
The building firm is also preparing to send a prototype small 15×15 cm model to the moon using NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS). This will allow private companies to land on the moon and bring scientific equipment with them.
The prototype “is like a sealed container that will take water and carbon dioxide to feed the algae and travel to the moon to produce oxygen to feed the fungi.”
Large, long-term missions require NASA to be able to source water on the surface of Mars.
Are there uses for mushroom construction on Earth?
Beyond space exploration, Maurer believes the technology will allow for “open architectures that enable new things … built in ways that can actually store carbon, rather than emit it.”
Just as reinforced concrete changed the way we build our structures, “this improves and almost reverses the carbon footprint that modernism had”.
The world’s building stock accounts for 40% of the planet’s carbon footprint, and “if we could reverse it, we could see a huge shift in how we pump carbon into the atmosphere.” ”.