Fungi is something very commonly heard and seen but, it has some exotic properties that can help in turning the tables for the quest to colonize Mars. But how? Let’s have a look.
Astromycology is on the run now and scientists from NASA Ames Research Center are already looking for ways to grow fungi on Mars. But what’s so special about some not-so-exciting decomposers? They’ve been around us for so long but there’s nothing significant about them. Well, we humans have a tendency to go the easy way until we are pushed to try something out-of-the-box. And when challenges came in the journey to inhabit and sustain life on Mars, we have found potential in our common friend and food, Mushrooms.
There are a lot of challenges to create a sustainable Martian society: unfavorable meteorological conditions, high radiation exposure, less oxygen, and lots more. To overcome these challenges has been difficult for scientists because we can’t rely on Earth for everything and still envision a long-term Martian ecosystem. So we need to find ways to eliminate our dependency on Earth by establishing a self-sufficient and self-regulating ecosystem on Mars.
Nature is incredibly efficient in terms of a payload. It’s much better for nature to generate a payload of food than for your rocket to carry a payload of food.Paul Stammets
The success of our goal comes back to our origin–Nature. And as researched, some antarctic cryptoendolithic fungi can grow in Martian conditions which is the start to develop the Martian ecosystem. So if we are successful in growing fungi then we can get food for ourselves. The more amazing thing is Mycotecture: the use of fungi to build architectural products. Researchers have build bricks and large structures from fungal mycelium by growing and compressing them in a particular way.
Building such structures on Mars can help us build a settlement and certain fungi containing higher melanin amounts can also protect us from radiation to a great extent. Other living organisms can also survive in such conditions feeding upon fungi as well as evolving in the Martian conditions. We can hope to have a proper ecosystem on Mars following these developments.
Finally, it might seem like an ambitious thought to colonize another planet using some dull-looking fungi but the properties of mechanical strength, nutrition, radiation protect and adaptability attributes incredible potential to them. And, astromycologists don’t feel like giving up so soon. Maybe we will finally have a fungal biodegradable house on Mars and perhaps eat the house for food?