Sunday, 28 November 2021

Researchers send bacteria for mining rocks in space

LONDON: Other than sending animals and robots up to International Space Station, researchers have also sent bacteria aimed to mine space rocks for future missions.

Scientists have recently sent 18 various strains of bacteria to the ISS in order to determine if the mineral-leaching microbes could benefit astronauts mine space rocks during the future missions, an experiment dubbed as ‘BioRock’ experiment.

According to NASA, the experiment will look into how vital gravity is to the mineral-leeching bacteria. It will investigate if the bacteria can form biofilms and stick to the rocks in microgravity and simulated Mars gravity, and leech minerals out of them.

“The BioRock experiment starts putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” project leader Charles Cockell said. “Understanding how microbes interact, grow and extract elements from a rock surface in microgravity and simulated Mars gravity will tell us, for the first time, if low gravity affects the ability of microorganisms to attach to rock surfaces and perform biomining. In other words, whether extraterrestrial mining is possible.”

The scientists will calculate how much iron, calcium, magnesium, and more than a dozen other elements the bacteria can pull out of the rock samples during their time in space. As per Futurism, if the BioRock experiment is successful, scientists believe that it could benefit humanity turn space rocks on the moon or Mars into farmable soil for future human colonies and settlements.

“As we move into space, we can harness microbes to make our lives easier and improve the success of space settlements. BioRock is about forming a new space-faring alliance with the microbial world – using microbes to advance a permanent human presence in space,” said Cockell.

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