Raul Cuero was born in Buenventura, Colombia in 1948. A man from a humble family is today one of the most prominent scientist of the NASA. Author of “Between Triumph and Survival“, a work about his own life, Cuero is professor in the Prairie View A & M, University in Texas.On 13th May 2007 the Hoston Chronicle reported his researchs and inventions about microbiology doing observations on the Mars surface. Here we publish that article about this Colombian who comes from one of the most marginalized regions of our country (the Pacific Region) but who shows the real richness of our country. How many young people like him Colombia could offer to humanity if only all our regions were fully developped?
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
For the past four years, Raul Cuero has used NASA’s factory-made soil to breed microbes in his lab, much like 100 other scientific researchers in the nation — and seven others in Texas — have done since 1998.
And as Opportunity sits at Endurance, a 430-foot-wide crater on Mars, awaiting NASA’s command to jump in, Cuero has moved forward in his discovery that Mars soil may lead to solutions that could rid Earth of toxins.
At least that’s what the microbiologist hopes.
Cuero is trying to be the first to patent a set of techniques demonstrating how Martian soil can help Earth.
During his research of the artificial soil, Cuero, whose most recent patent was approved earlier this year, created an organic solution that prevents mold and bacteria from growing on vegetables. Using a $120,000 grant from NASA, he also developed a technique that, without using synthetic chemicals, can extract toxins from metals.
“This proves that not only is Mars’ soil important to life, but it is important to be used to clean toxic materials on Earth,” said Cuero, 55, who believes that actual Mars soil will be more effective than the manufactured soil. The artificial soil is 80 percent similar in composition to the Red Planet’s grainy plains.
Cuero has high hopes for his inventions, and a long list of what he believes they could accomplish, including making copper, uranium and lead less hazardous. He also said they could give avocados and lettuce longer shelf lives. They could make drinking water zinc-free, he said, and, hopefully, cure some forms of cancer.
“Everything we do is for survival. The more you know, the more you discover things to do and, therefore, you are not limited,” Cuero said. “(My inventions) can lead to changes in paradigms. The concepts of contamination can change.”
During his research, Cuero also received grants from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization totaling $108,000 for similar studies. Cuero trained two Russian scientists this semester on ways to remove contaminants using his techniques. A follow-up session will soon take Cuero to Russia to assist the scientists in a project.
It’s too early to know whether Cuero’s experiments will pan out, said David S. McKay, chief scientist for astrobiology at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Without the actual Mars soil, scientists are not completely confident that it will have the same results found in Cuero’s lab.
“We hope that we’ll be able to send a real-bodied mission and send some soil back as soon as possible because we think that the scientific benefits of that would be really tremendous,” said McKay, who worked with Cuero on the research.
Two companies have approached Cuero with requests to license his discoveries for production. The Baltimore-based Omo Petroleum Company LLC has licensed Cuero’s invention that helps to clean oil, producing a more environmentally safe product. Cuero would not identify the second company because no deal has been finalized.
“This can have a big impact on health, the environment and biotechnology,” said Cuero, who didn’t want to disclose the specifics of his research.
Instead, he spoke broadly of how Mars soil may be able to kill off contaminants.
Earth is seething with toxins because the planet is oxidized, Cuero said. Because Mars lacks oxygen and is mostly composed of iron, the planet can easily destroy pollutants, he said.
This process, called oxidation-reduction, was crucial in validating Cuero’s findings. Cuero says that the future of Mars exploration, coupled with his inventions, will “bring on a social and economic renaissance.”