How fungi and bacteria could help build habitats on Mars

Researchers from NASA are exploring futuristic concepts including the use of fungi as building materials for future habitats on the Moon and bacteria for detoxifying water on Mars.

According to Dr Lynn Rothschild, who is a senior scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, these are part of proof-of-concept projects funded by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program.

Future projects

"These are projects that are not ready right now for the surface, but at least they're there so that we can start to think about them for the future," she said.

She added that the underground portion of a mushroom, called mycelia, could be used to bind other materials.

"Just like it does in nature, it binds the soil. They bind wood chips and so on. So, what if you use that approach for taking these fungal mycelia and binding materials to make houses or rover shells, or even chairs, beds, and plates and forks out of these materials.

"So, this is something that we have been very focused on the last few years," she said.

Martian water

Speaking about bacteria's use in detoxifying Martian water, Dr Rothschild said there are a lot of perchlorates (molecules containing chlorine and oxygen) in the surface material on Mars.

"So, to be able to drink the water that's present on the surface of Mars, we're going to have to detoxify it. We know there are some bacteria that can do that on planet Earth, but these are not the right bacteria to take to space," she said.

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