The journal Nature Communications noted that the results of experiments carried out aboard the International Space Station showed that certain types of bacteria, in conditions of weightlessness, can extract valuable elements from moon rocks and Mars, and that rare earth elements and their compounds which has unique stimulating and magnetic properties are: It is an important component of electronics and industrial equipment, and is absolutely necessary in colonizing other planets, especially since it will not be possible to move it from Earth.
Because of this, experts are looking for simple ways to replace these minerals. As is well known, some types of bacteria on Earth are used to extract rare elements, gold and copper, and this method is called “bio-extraction.” But it was not known whether these bacteria maintain this activity in conditions of zero gravity.
To this end, scientists at the University of Edinburgh designed so-called bio-search reactors, which are small devices with conditions similar to those of the moon and Mars. Of these, 18 reactors with basalt rock massages were transported in July 2019 to the International Space Station, where the three-week BioRock experiment was conducted.
Scientists have evaluated the effectiveness of three bacteria, Sphingomonas desiccabilis, Bacillus subtilis and Cupriavidus Metallidurans, in extracting 14 rare earth elements from pieces of basalt rock. A similar experiment was conducted on Earth under gravity conditions using the same types of bacteria, in conjunction with this experiment.
Experts discovered that S. desiccabilis bacteria maintains high efficiency, as it removes about 70% of the two elements cerium and demium in all gravitational states: Earth, Mars and total gravity zero.
And Professor Charles Kokkil of the College of Physics and Astronomy notes that this experiment, both scientific and technical, has confirmed the possibility of using the bio-extraction method in space as well.
Experts believe that bacteria in space can be used not only in the field of mineral extraction, but also to analyze rocks and arable soils, or to provide raw materials for water and air production systems, according to “Novosti”.