On the hunt for high-altitude microorganisms

May 21, 2012 by Jason Major, Universe Today
Design of an XCOR Lynx spacecraft. Credit: XCOR Aerospace

The United States Rocket Academy has announced an open call for entries in its High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge, a citizen science project that will attempt to collect samples of microbes that may be lurking in Earth’s atmosphere at the edge of space.

Earth’s biosphere has been discovered to extend much higher than once thought — up to 100,000 feet (30,480 meters) above the planet’s surface. Any microorganisms present at these high altitudes could be subject to the mutating effects of increased radiation and transported around the globe in a sort of pathogenic jet-stream.

Citizens in Space, a project run by the U.S. Rocket Academy, is offering a $10,000 prize for the development of an open-source and replicable  collection device that could successfully retrieve samples of microorganisms, and could fly as a payload aboard an XCOR Lynx spacecraft.

XCOR Aerospace is a private California-based company that has developed the Lynx, a reusable launch vehicle that has suborbital flight capabilities. Low-speed test flights are expected to commence later this year, with incremental testing to take place over the following months.

Any proposed microbe collection devices would have to fit within the parameters of the Lynx’s 2kg Aft Cowling Port payload capabilities — preferably a 10 x 10 x 20 cm CubeSat volume — and provide solutions for either its retraction (in the case of extended components) or retrieval (in the case of ejected hardware.)

The contest is open to any US resident or non-government team or organization, and submissions are due by February 13, 2013. The chosen design will fly on 10 contracted Lynx flights in late 2013 or early 2014, and possibly even future missions.

Find out more about the challenge on the Citizens in Space site here, and check out an animation of the XCOR Lynx spacecraft below:

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.


Explore further: Why don't we search for different life?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

XCOR Lynx slated to fly new suborbital telescope

Jul 13, 2011

Commercial space company XCOR Aerospace has signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Planetary Science Institute, laying the groundwork for flying a human-operated telescope on board XCOR’s ...

Calif. space tourism firm launches S. Korea deal

Dec 18, 2009

(AP) -- A California company developing a rocket plane for space tourism announced Thursday that it has an agreement with a nonprofit group in South Korea to conduct launches in that nation.

Space science on the wings of starfighters

Nov 04, 2011

A NewSpace company based out of New Port Richey in Florida is working to provide suborbital access to space for firms with scientific payloads. The Star Lab project is an experimental suborbital launcher, ...

Recommended for you

Why don't we search for different life?

16 hours ago

If we really want to find life on other worlds, why do we keep looking for life based on carbon and water? Why don't we look for the stuff that's really different?

OSIRIS catches glimpse of Rosetta's shadow

17 hours ago

Several days after Rosetta's close flyby of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 14 February 2015, images taken on this day by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board, have now been downlinked to Earth. ...

Kamikaze comet loses its head

18 hours ago

Like coins, most comet have both heads and tails. Occasionally, during a close passage of the Sun, a comet's head will be greatly diminished yet still retain a classic cometary outline. Rarely are we left ...

NASA spacecraft nears historic dwarf planet arrival

Mar 02, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kaasinees
3.7 / 5 (3) May 21, 2012
We find more and more about the composition of mass beyond earths atmosphere, so why not?
Graeme
not rated yet May 23, 2012
It would be a challenge to catch them alive. Perhaps a bacteria could be accellerated at 1000G, to the flying craft's speed, but not an insect!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.