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Synthetic geomicrobiology: engineering microbe–mineral interactions for space exploration and settlement

  • Charles S. Cockell (a1)

Abstract

Synthetic geomicrobiology is a potentially new branch of synthetic biology that seeks to achieve improvements in microbe–mineral interactions for practical applications. In this paper, laboratory and field data are provided on three geomicrobiology challenges in space: (1) soil formation from extraterrestrial regolith by biological rock weathering and/or the use of regolith as life support system feedstock, (2) biological extraction of economically important elements from rocks (biomining) and (3) biological solidification of surfaces and dust control on other planetary surfaces. The use of synthetic or engineered organisms in these three applications is discussed. These three examples are used to extract general common principles that might be applied to the design of organisms used in synthetic geomicrobiology.

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International Journal of Astrobiology
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