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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Rare Earths & Thorium: Latest News: July 19th 2019


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:: Space Station to Test Microbe-Based Method for Mining Rare Earths on Moon, Mars - NASA


An upcoming resupply mission for the International Space Station will include an experiment using microbes to extract rare earth elements from volcanic rock on the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies that may one day host human colonies, University of Edinburgh Astrobiology Professor Charles said during a NASA press conference on Tuesday.

The briefing preceded a scheduled July 21 launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket loaded with supplies and experiments for the orbiting laboratory. "For three weeks they [microbes] will grow into and on the surface of our small lumps of rock, extracting elements from the rocks and releasing them into a solution," Cockell said.

Thirty-six capsules with volcanic basalt rocks - like rocks on the Moon and Mars - in a liquid solution will be injected with the microbes and be examined back on Earth, Cockell added.

The tests will be conducted in micro-gravity as well as simulated Martian gravity using centrifuges, according to Cockell.

The United States has an ambitious plan to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon by 2028 and eventually on Mars, with mining on planetary worlds a top priority for future space exploration.




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