Drop the Base: Biological, ISRU-Based Aleatory Construction System for Martian Habitats



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2023 International Conference on Environmental Systems


The prospect of establishing human habitats on Mars presents numerous challenges due to its distance from Earth and the Sun. These include limited access to building materials and machinery, communication lags, and difficulty in obtaining energy. Moreover, Mars' unique environmental conditions, such as different gravity levels, lack of a breathable atmosphere, and the need for protection from radiation, pose additional obstacles. Therefore, developing habitats on Mars requires a reinvented construction process that can address these extreme conditions. One of the alternative approaches for extraterrestrial construction is the use of biological materials. These materials could be brought from Earth and grown in situ for the construction of surface habitats and other structures. We propose the biofabrication strategy for stabilizing regolith using mycelium. This approach focuses specifically on building in resource-limited conditions. It takes into account the use of biomass, water, and oxygen when creating structural components, and the assembly process when it comes to energy consumption and the need for robotic operations. The work explores the creation of in situ-grown mycelium-based regolith composites. Due to lower gravity eliminating the risk of crushing, the resulting components could be literally dropped and aleatorily assembled based on their geometry. A structural system consisting of stacked components containing living matter could meld together through a biological process known as bio-welding, resulting in a solid structure that would serve as a protective habitat shell. The paper discusses the challenges of biological manufacturing for building on Mars, including the complexity of biological material synthesis. It also presents the developments towards a biological aleatory construction system that would work in reduced gravity conditions, allowing the construction of extraterrestrial habitats with minimal energy and additional resources.


Monika Brandić Lipińska, Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Martyn Dade-Robertson, Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Meng Zhang, Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, Northumbria University, United Kingdom
Lynn J. Rothschild, NASA Ames Research Center, USA
ICES502: Space Architecture
The 52nd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Calgary, Canada, on 16 July 2023 through 20 July 2023.


biofabrication, biocomposites, mycelium, in-situ resource utilization, space architecture