Recent experiments aboard the International Space Station have shown that some microbes can harvest valuable rare-earth elements from rocks, even when exposed to microgravity conditions. The unexpected finding shows how microbes could boost our ability to live and work in space.
On Earth, some microscopic organisms have shown their worth as effective miners, extracting rare-earth elements (REEs) from rocks. New experimental evidence published today in Nature Communications shows that, when it comes to leaching REEs from rocks, at least one strain of bacteria is largely unaffected by microgravity and low-gravity conditions.
This is potentially good news for future space explorers, as biomining microbes could provide a means for acquiring REEs while in space, on the Moon, or on Mars. Continue Reading →