Possible Launch Today

The HASP platform is currently waiting on the launch vehicle, “Big Bill”.  We hope that the winds will be calm enough to launch today.


Stratospheric Sampling Tomorrow

The next launch opportunity will be tomorrow morning.  We will attempt to sample for microorganisms between 60,000 to 95,000.  We would also like to avoid rattle snake hang outs upon landing, but that is really beyond our control.

We have two successful tropospheric sampling mission that collected microbes from 5,000-35,000 ft.  The enrichments are incubating and graphs are being generated.

MARSLIFE team has arrived in Fort Sumner, NM

Today the MARSLIFE team arrived in Fort Sumner, NM.  Here we plan to launch a fleet of the smaller Life’s Atmospheric Microbial Boundary (LAMB) payloads to map how the concentrations of microbes vary at increasing altitudes.  These mission will collect samples from a few hundred feet off the ground up to ~100,000 ft.  The samples will then be analyzed to determine the number of cells collected.  We will also attempt to culture microorganisms from different heights in the atmosphere.

In addition to the smaller payloads, we will also be launching the High Altitude Student Platform carrying a variety of payloads from universities across the country.  The MARSLIFE team is flying the High Altitude Device for Entrapping Samples (HADES) payload to collect microbes from ~125,000 ft.  This larger platform will reach the float altitude and collect samples for 6-12 hours (depending on wind speeds).

The past week has been filled with the largest sampling prep we have ever undertaken.  We have never flown this many payloads in such a short period of time.  The added bonus of being away from the LSU facility means a lot of packing.  I transported a fully functioning lab in the back of a Suburban.  I can truly appreciate the effort my fellow lab mates had to put forth for months of work in Antarctica.

Thank you to the team members back at LSU:

  • David Branch
  • Scott Burke
  • Seth Junot
  • Craig Jones


We will get to see all that hard work pay off over the next few weeks.  More to come!

Data from thermal vac

The data from the first thermal vacuum test has been analyzed.  Graphs have been made, edited, and made again.  This is great practice for compiling the larger data set we will get during the longer August flight.  We can monitor the rotation of the payload, the position of the doors, the temperatures of the components, and the relative humidity.  We believe the relative humidity made play a crucial role in the survival of aerosolized microbes.

It appears as though the modification for the rotation of the HADES payload did not survive the cold.  Since this was a quick fix, we are not completely surprised.  The doors operated as predicted during the cold cycle, but they managed to fail during the hot cycle.  We are currently trying to mitigate this door jam.  We have a few different approaches to try before tomorrow’s repeat of the thermal-vac test.

The teams that did not make it into the first round of thermal-vac testing will also get to test their payloads tomorrow.  Several of the teams have already passed flight certification and are packed and ready to go to Fort Sumner, NM.  Since everything worked properly during the first test, they do not have to repeat their experiments.

With the ability to test, tinker, and test again, I find myself thinking of the Curiosity team’s seven minutes of terror.  Keith Commeaux, LSU alum and director of the descent, entry, and landing of Curiosity, came to talk to the ACES (Aerospace Catalyst Experience for Students) group at LSU.  He said they were able to test the individual components of the craft, but it was impossible to have a full landing simulation.  The Curiosity landing was the first full operation of all the descent and landing systems.  Years of work and planning all came down to those seven minutes of complete terror.  Hats off again to the Curiosity team.