Successful Sounding Balloon Flights

Successful Sounding Balloon Flights

We have conducted 4 successful sounding balloon flights to collect microbes from 5,000 to 95,000 feet.


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!

HASP Integration Tuesday

The best about integration week is that I get to spend some hands-on time with the payload.  As the microbiology leg of the team, the payload has been in the very capable hands of the undergrads.  They have designed, fabricated, and tested the payload extensively.  I spend the majority of my time on the micro side.  So this is the time when I get to attach the nuts and bolts, configure the electrical connections, and monitor the data.  This week is essential for the successful operation of the payload during launch week.


Speaking of the undergrads, their hard work has paid off.  The payload is fully integrated to HASP (High Altitude Student Platform) and is ready for tomorrow’s thermal-vac test.  The payloads will be challenged to a low temperature around -50C and a high temperature of 50C.  The chamber will also pull a vacuum to mimic the conditions experienced at 125,000 ft. (38 km.).  For a full list of participants and their experiments, go to