The smallest space miners: principles of space biomining

Rosa Santomartino*, Luis Zea, Charles S. Cockell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

As we aim to expand human presence in space, we need to find viable approaches to achieve independence from terrestrial resources. Space biomining of the Moon, Mars and asteroids has been indicated as one of the promising approaches to achieve in-situ resource utilization by the main space agencies. Structural and expensive metals, essential mineral nutrients, water, oxygen and volatiles could be potentially extracted from extraterrestrial regolith and rocks using microbial-based biotechnologies. The use of bioleaching microorganisms could also be applied to space bioremediation, recycling of waste and to reinforce regenerative life support systems. However, the science around space biomining is still young. Relevant differences between terrestrial and extraterrestrial conditions exist, including the rock types and ores available for mining, and a direct application of established terrestrial biomining techniques may not be a possibility. It is, therefore, necessary to invest in terrestrial and space-based research of specific methods for space applications to learn the effects of space conditions on biomining and bioremediation, expand our knowledge on organotrophic and community-based bioleaching mechanisms, as well as on anaerobic biomining, and investigate the use of synthetic biology to overcome limitations posed by the space environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Space biomining
  • ISRU
  • Space bioleaching
  • BLSS
  • Space microbiology
  • Bioremediation
  • Space sustainability


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