Learn from Mother Nature – Biomaterials for a sustainable Moon base The ASE Europe prize for the best human spaceflight-related report in 2021
For many students worldwide, the year 2021 with its Covid restrictions has been disruptive for their studies. It is even more remarkable that Amy Holt, a British born biologist with a PhD from the University of Aberdeen in 2021 managed to compile a prize-winning study report on her two favourite subjects: biology and space. With the help of her proposed technology, future habitats on the Moon will apply principles that make also life on Earth resilient against extreme environmental challenges. 3D printing – for us a promising ‘new’ technology for advanced structures – has long since been invented by Mother Nature, with precise building instructions, large self-supporting structures, and limitless supplies of raw building material such as fungal generated mycelium. Cell reproduction enables repair mechanisms in many biological processes, healing the effects of physical deformation, heat, cold, or radiation. Amy’s proposed habitat structures mimic these resilient features by choosing the appropriate mixture of plant, fungi, and bacterial material to achieve rigidity, radiation shielding, and sustainability, while making use of In-situ resources of the Moon surface. Explains Amy: “I always knew I wanted to work in science, and I completed my PhD in the field of Molecular Immunology back in 2010. However, I have had a passion for space since first visiting NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as a child, and earlier in 2020 I decided to act on my long-held aspirations to work in the space sector and applied to undertake a Master of Science in Space Studies degree at the International Space University (ISU) in France.” And about her project: “I’ve chosen this theme partly because I had become increasingly interested in the benefits of working in an interdisciplinary manner as I progressed throughout the course, and as a biologist I was also fascinated by the way biomaterials could potentially be utilized within the space domain. The project culminated in the development of a novel bio design process, through which more sustainable structures could be conceived.”
Finally, in May 2022, the ISU Master diploma and the prize could be handed to Amy, here with ASE Europe President Reinhold Ewald (left) and ISU’s Ex-President Juan de Dalmau. With the experience of her ISU studies, Amy is now working with Blue Abyss, helping to develop astronaut training.
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) Europe thanks the André Kuipers Foundation for their continued financial contribution to this prize. ASE Europe, the European branch of the worldwide Association of Space Explorers, and its astronaut members advocate the uniquely motivating perspective of orbital spaceflight to students and young professionals all over the world.