Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hunting for extraterrestrial microorganisms

The United States Rocket Academy’s project Citizens in Space is seeking entries for a science project that will attempt to collect microbes that could exist in Earth’s upper atmosphere at the edge of space.

Artist's rendition of the XCOR Lynx spacecraft. (Credit: XCOR Aerospace)

This science project, named the High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge, was announced on Saturday, May 19, and gives participating citizen scientists the opportunity to win up to $10,000. Citizens in Space project manager Edward Wright explains that this project, inspired by a NASA astrobiologist, is asking citizen scientists to develop hardware for collecting high-altitude microorganisms. Approximately one hundred of these collection devices will be selected and flown aboard a low-cost suborbital spacecraft, like the XCOR Lynx.
According to Universe Today, “XCOR Aerospace is a private California-based company that has developed the Lynx, a reusable launch vehicle that has suborbital flight capabilities.” Citizens in Space currently has a contract with XCOR Aerospace for ten suborbital spaceflights. The winning microorganism collection device from the High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge will fly on all ten flights.