UK biomining could establish settlements on other planets

A UK-led space biomining experiment could help the first space settlers gather minerals needed to survive on other planets.

The experiment, which was launched on a SpaceX rocket at the weekend, will take up match-box sized containers carrying asteroid rock, which will then be used to grow bacteria and fungi in an incubator for three weeks to investigate how gravity affects interaction between the microbes and rock in reduced gravity.

If the experiment is successful, it will support efforts to explore the Moon and Mars, allowing humans to extract building materials, water or rocket fuel.

“If we want to keeping exploring space and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, then we will need to make or find the essential elements required to support life,” said Libby Jackson, human exploration programme manager, UK Space Agency. “Through our membership of the European Space Agency, UK scientists are able to take advantage of the unique scientific facilities available on the ISS and are at the forefront of efforts to recreate the foundations of life on Earth.

“The new Bioreactor Express programme – which this experiment forms part of – is going to change the way we are able use this unique laboratory, opening up new opportunities for UK scientists and organisations to undertake science in space.”

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Kayser Space, have collaborated on the project.
Prof. Charles Cockell, University of Edinburgh, said: “To sustain humans permanently beyond Earth we need to get access to useful materials. This experiment advances our ability to do that. It will also yield new fundamental insights into processes that are useful here on Earth, such as biomining and how microbes form biofilms that foul our pipes and industrial plants.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart, said: “It’s fantastic scientists at the University of Edinburgh have worked on this monumental UK-led project. We are living during a very exciting time for the space industry. Continued UK Government investment into the space sector will cement the UK as a global leader in space.”

    Share Story:

Recent Stories