Mushroom expert Paul Stamets, author of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, is part of a new NASA-funded study on "astromycology," how fungi could be used in space as building materials, to generate healthy soil for agriculture, and even as batteries. Scientific American interviewed Stamets about his current research and also his most far out ideas beyond the NASA project. From Scientific American:
Before we wrap up, let's get a little more speculative. What are some of the more fantastic ways mushrooms might be applied in space?
Well, what I can tell you? I'm sure some of your editors may go, "No way, we're not going to publish this." But I think using psilocybin mushrooms in spaceflight makes a lot of sense. There are more than 65 articles right now … at ClinicalTrials.gov that say psilocybin mushrooms help people overcome [post-traumatic stress disorder], loneliness and depression. Do you think the astronauts are going to have loneliness and depression and PTSD? I think yes. How are you going to help them?
Under carefully controlled conditions, our astronauts [being] able to take psilocybin in space and look at the universe and not feel distant and alone but feel like they're part of this giant consciousness will give them a better frame of mind—psychologically, emotionally—to work with other astronauts and stay on mission. I feel that isolation, loneliness and depression are going to be major issues that astronauts face.
So I say this with great sincerity: NASA and anyone else working and looking at the settlement of space, you should consider that psilocybin mushrooms should be an essential part of your psychological tool kit for astronauts to be able to endure the solitude and the challenges of space and isolation.
Psilocybin mushrooms build creativity; people who are more creative come up with more solutions. I think that, in a sense, is a fertile ecosystem that can lead to the sustainability of humans in space.