The first extraterrestrial biomining test and the first use of a prototype miniature mining reactor in space, BioRock, has taken place at the International Space Station (ISS).
This is the first study of how microbes grow and alter planetary rocks in microgravity and simulated Martian gravity.
Very little is known about how microgravity affects interactions between microbes and minerals, but previous research shows that the binding of microbes to surfaces, or the formation of biofilms, occurs differently in space: in general, biofilms increase, become thicker and show particular shapes and structures in microgravity.
As explained by the principal investigator Charles Cockell, professor at the Astrobiology Center of the United Kingdom, at the University of Edinburgh, about BioRock:
We are studying three types of microbes, giving us the first comparison between the behaviors of different microbes in the spatial environment.