Mining is as old as humans. Since the beginning of civilization, human beings have made use of a variety of materials to create weapons and tools, such as stone ceramics and metals. In recent years, regular mining seems to not be enough; therefore biomining was invented.
Biomining refers to the method of extracting metals from ores and various other materials using bacteria. The good news is that biomining is an environmentally friendly method of mining in comparison to the regular mining. Another good news (or maybe just intriguing) is that scientists decided to take biomining in space to dig up for materials on cosmic objects.
Microbes have been sent into space
In order to study how microbes behave in environments such as space, NASA has sent 18 different types of bacteria to the International Space Station. There, the astronomers aboard the ISS must conduct several experiments to establish if microbes can survive in space and whether they could bring a contribution to space mining in the future planned missions.
This experiment received the name BioRock and has as a goal the use of bacteria to transform the dust and rocks from the surface of celestial objects such as the moon and Mars into soil suitable for the growth of plants. If the experiment proved viable, then it would be another step towards the development of human settlements on Earth’s natural satellite and on the planet. Human settlements on other planets from our Solar System are a long lived dream of many people and more and more efforts are made in order to see this dream accomplished.
The first thing the scientists on the ISS must do is determine if the microbes can successfully create biofilms and attach to rocks in microgravity. If the microbes carry out the deed, then the future of space biomining is closer than we thought.