Survival in extreme environment: Capturing and Exposing Microorganisms under Lower Stratospheric conditions

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Extremophilic or prokaryotic organisms have been known to exist in the upper atmosphere condition, especially in the extreme lower stratosphere environment. However, samples obtained from such heights are often riddled with contamination from earth, which unfortunately questions the validity of new discovery or findings involved. University of Houston�s Undergraduate Student Instrumentation Project (USIP) astrobiology research group will therefore attempt a two-pronged approach to conduct a cross-sectional analysis of those microorganisms by collecting living samples using a sterile and lightweight balloon-borne payload and by exposing earth-borne bacteria to the stratospheric condition. These instruments will be flown as payloads on weather balloons. Our research group will attempt to circumvent the contamination issues for the collection experiment by constructing an efficient, sterile suctioning device that can take a large volume sample of stratospheric air at certain specified heights. We will also apply a polyphasic sterilization approach to both collection and exposure experiments to ensure the validity of the samples. Other components such as temperature and pressure sensors, actuators, and active heating system are included to provide context for the environment that microorganisms may be captured or exposed to. Post-analyses on these experiments are expected to provide valid studies on extremophilic organisms in stratosphere