In the popular video game series Super Mario Bros., players can use mushrooms to increase their size, and even gain an extra life to keep the play going longer.

But the benefits of fungi aren’t limited to the digital video game world. It turns out that mushrooms may help space travel “level up” as well.

Mycologist Paul Stamets claims that mushrooms can help facilitate humans eventually living on other planets. While he goes as far as to say that fungi can even contribute to “terraforming” other worlds (making the environment of other planets more like Earth’s), Stamets also suggests that using fungi can help create rich soils that can be used to grow food.

Scientific American published an interview with Stamets, where he said:

[Plants that support terraforming] need minerals, and pairing fungi up with the plants and debris from humans [causes them to] decompose into a form that then creates rich soils that could help generate the foods that astronauts need. It’s much easier to take one seed and grow your food than it is to take a ton of food to space, right? 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.”

Stamets went on to explain that blocks made out of reishi mycelium are incredibly strong and could be used in creating structures on other planets. They also maintain heat very well.

Moreover, these could become batteries. You can have solar panels on a structure on Mars made of mycelium. (The entire mycelium is about 85 percent carbon, and studies have shown that porous carbon can be an excellent capacitor.) You could then pregrow these and arrange them on a form such that they become nanobatteries. And they could then not only insulate you from the cold on the Martian or asteroid surface, but the house itself becomes a giant battery for power because they’re so rich in carbon fibers.”

To read the entire Scientific American article, click here.


  • Adam Houser

    Adam Houser coordinates student leaders as National Director of CFACT's collegians program and writes on issues of climate and energy.