Biomining experiments could lead to human developments in space, study suggests


Mining experiments conducted in orbit could pave the way for new technologies to aid space exploration and help establish human settlements elsewhere in the Solar System, a new study suggests. Using matchbox-sized mining devices, astronauts may be able to extract useful bacteria from rocks on Mars and the Moon.

The devices, called biomining reactors, were developed at the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh over a 10-year period. The reactors could help scientists develop ways of sourcing metals and minerals – such as iron and magnesium – essential for survival in space.

The bacteria could one day be used to break rocks down into soil for growing crops or to provide minerals for life support systems that produce air and water, researchers say. The mining devices were taken to the International Space Station (Nasa/PA)
When a SpaceX rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida in July 2019 headed for the the International Space Station (ISS), 18 of the mining devices were aboard.