Beer ‘space rock’ returns to village

Bacteria on Beer’s ‘Bob’s Knob’ survives space research mission

IT may look the size of a pea, but this little piece of Beer rock is out of this world.

The half-a-centimetre cube was cut from Bob’s Knob on the west side of Beer Beach by Little Beach and will take pride of place in a new display of the cliffs in model form at Beer Heritage Centre on Beer Beach, next year.

The rock, which is millions of years old, was sent into space in 2008 to see how it would survive in the hostile conditions beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Bacteria on the rock survived 553 days in space after being put on the European Space Agency’s Technology Exposure Facility at the end of the International Space Station’s Columbus Laboratory.

Now the rock has returned to Earth, and Beer councillor Mike Green received the specimen from the Open University at Milton Keynes.

He said: “It helps put Beer and the Jurassic Coast on the map. It is nice to know that Beer has played a part in the advancement of science and it will be a great attraction to have in the Beer Heritage Centre. I am sure it will interest and inspire people, especially the young.”

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OU researcher Dr Karen Olson-Francis said: “If we were to develop bases on the Moon or Mars, we could use bacteria for ‘bio-mining’, using them to extract important minerals from rocks.”

She said their hardiness supports the theory that micro-organisms could be taken to planets to create life.