A Balloon-Based Payload for Exposing Microorganisms in the Stratosphere (E-MIST)

David J. Smith, Prital J. Thakrar, Anthony E. Bharrat, Adam G. Dokos, Teresa L. Kinney, Leandro M. James, Michael A. Lane, Christina L. Khodadad, Finlay Maguire, Phillip R. Maloney, Nicole L. Dawkins

Abstract


The survival and transit of microorganisms in Earth's upper atmosphere is relevant to terrestrial ecology and astrobiology, but the topic is understudied due to a scarcity of flight systems. We designed, built and flew a self-contained payload, Exposing Microorganisms in the Stratosphere (E-MIST), on a large scientific balloon launched from New Mexico on 24 Aug 2014. The payload carried Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, a highly-resilient spore-forming bacterial strain originally isolated from a NASA spacecraft assembly facility. Our test flight evaluated E-MIST functionality in the stratosphere, including microbiological procedures and overall instrument performance. Herein, we summarize features of the E-MIST payload, protocols, and preliminary results that indicate it is possible to conduct a tightly-controlled microbiological experiment in the stratosphere while collecting pertinent environmental data. Additional studies of this nature may permit survival models for microbes traveling through Earth's harsh upper atmosphere. Moreover, measuring the endurance of spacecraft-associated microbes at extreme altitudes may help predict their response on the surface of Mars.

References


Beck-Winchatz B, Bramble J (2014) High-altitude ballooning student research with yeast and plant seeds. Gravitational and Space Research 2: 117-127

Benardini III JN, La Duc MT, Beaudet RA, Koukol R (2014) Implementing planetary protection measures on the Mars Science Laboratory. Astrobiology 14: 27-32

Brown JKM, Hovmøller MS (2002) Aerial dispersal of pathogens on the global and continental scales and its impact on plant disease. Science 297: 537-541

Burrows S, Elbert W, Lawrence M, Pöschl U (2009) Bacteria in the global atmosphere–Part 1: Review and synthesis of literature data for different ecosystems. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 9: 9263-9280

Creamean JM, Suski KJ, Rosenfeld D, Cazorla A, DeMott PJ, Sullivan RC, White AB, Ralph FM, Minnis P, Comstock JM (2013) Dust and biological aerosols from the Sahara and Asia influence precipitation in the Western US. Science 339: 1572-1578

Ghosh S, Zhang P, Li Y-q, Setlow P (2009) Superdormant spores of Bacillus species have elevated wet-heat resistance and temperature requirements for heat activation. Journal of Bacteriology 191: 5584-5591

Gioia J, Yerrapragada S, Qin X, Jiang H, Igboeli OC, Muzny D, Dugan-Rocha S, Ding Y, Hawes A, Liu W, Perez L, Kovar C, Dinh H, Lee S, Nazareth L, Blyth P, Holder M, Buhay C, Tirumalai MR, Liu Y, Dasgupta I, Bokhetache L, Fujita M, Karouia F, Eswara Moorthy P, Siefert J, Uzman A, Buzumbo P, Verma A, Zwiya H, McWilliams BD, Olowu A, Clinkenbeard KD, Newcombe D, Golebiewski L, Petrosino JF, Nicholson WL, Fox GE, Venkateswaran K, Highlander SK, Weinstock GM (2007) Paradoxical DNA repair and peroxide resistance gene conservation in Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032. PLOS ONE 2: e928

Griffin DW (2007) Atmospheric movement of microorganisms in clouds of desert dust and implications for human health. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 20: 459-477

Homeyer CR, Bowman KP, Pan LL, Zondlo MA, Bresch JF (2011) Convective injection into stratospheric intrusions. Journal of Geophysical Research 116: D23

Horneck G, Moeller R, Cadet J, Douki T, Mancinelli RL, Nicholson WL, Panitz C, Rabbow E, Rettberg P, Spry A, Stackebrandt E, Vaishampayan P, Venkateswaran KJ (2012) Resistance of bacterial endospores to outer space for planetary protection purposes--experiment PROTECT of the EXPOSE-E mission. Astrobiology 12: 445-456

Kaplan DI (1988) Environment of Mars, 1988. NASA STI/Recon Technical Report N 89: 14187

Kempf MJ, Chen F, Kern R, Venkateswaran K (2005) Recurrent isolation of hydrogen peroxide-resistant spores of Bacillus pumilus from a spacecraft assembly facility. Astrobiology 5: 391-405

Link L, Sawyer J, Venkateswaran K, Nicholson W (2004) Extreme spore UV resistance of Bacillus pumilus isolates obtained from an ultraclean spacecraft assembly facility. Microbial Ecology 47: 159-163

Mancinelli RL, Klovstad M (2000) Martian soil and UV radiation: microbial viability assessment on spacecraft surfaces. Planetary and Space Science 48: 1093-1097

Moeller R, Reitz G, Nicholson The Protect Team WL, Horneck G (2012) Mutagenesis in bacterial spores exposed to space and simulated martian conditions: data from the EXPOSE-E spaceflight experiment PROTECT. Astrobiology 12: 457-468

Nicholson WL, Munakata N, Horneck G, Melosh HJ, Setlow P (2000) Resistance of Bacillus endospores to extreme terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 64: 548-572

Nicholson WL, Moeller R, Team P, Horneck G (2012) Transcriptomic responses of germinating Bacillus subtilis spores exposed to 1.5 years of space and simulated martian conditions on the EXPOSE-E experiment PROTECT. Astrobiology 12: 469-486

Polymenakou PN (2012) Atmosphere: A source of pathogenic or beneficial microbes? Atmosphere 3: 87-102

Randel WJ, Jensen EJ (2013) Physical processes in the tropical tropopause layer and their roles in a changing climate. Nature Geoscience 6: 169-176

Sasagawa Y, Nikaido I, Hayashi T, Danno H, Uno KD, Imai T, Ueda HR (2013) Quartz-Seq: a highly reproducible and sensitive single-cell RNA sequencing method, reveals non-genetic gene-expression heterogeneity. Genome Biology 14: R31

Singh RP, Hodson DP, Huerta-Espino J, Jin Y, Bhavani S, Njau P, Herrera-Foessel S, Singh PK, Singh S, Govindan V (2011) The emergence of Ug99 races of the stem rust fungus is a threat to world wheat production. Annual Review of Phytopathology 49: 465-481

Smith DJ, Griffin DW, Schuerger AC (2009) Stratospheric microbiology at 20 km over the Pacific Ocean. Aerobiologia 26: 35-46

Smith DJ, Griffin DW, McPeters RD, Ward PD, Schuerger AC (2011) Microbial survival in the stratosphere and implications for global dispersal. Aerobiologia 27: 319-332

Smith DJ, Jaffe DA, Birmele MN, Griffin DW, Schuerger AC, Hee J, Roberts MS (2012) Free tropospheric transport of microorganisms from Asia to North America. Microbial Ecology 64: 973-985

Smith DJ, Timonen HJ, Jaffe DA, Griffin DW, Birmele MN, Perry KD, Ward PD, Roberts MS (2013) Intercontinental dispersal of bacteria and archaea by transpacific winds. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79: 1134-1139

Smith DJ (2013) Microbes in the upper atmosphere and unique opportunities for astrobiology research. Astrobiology 13: 981-990

Tirumalai MR, Rastogi R, Zamani N, O'Bryant Williams E, Allen S, Diouf F, Kwende S, Weinstock GM, Venkateswaran KJ, Fox GE (2013) Candidate genes that may be responsible for the unusual resistances exhibited by Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores. PLOS ONE 8: e66012

Vaishampayan PA, Rabbow E, Horneck G, Venkateswaran KJ (2012) Survival of Bacillus pumilus spores for a prolonged period of time in real space conditions. Astrobiology 12: 487-497

Yu H, Remer LA, Kahn RA, Chin M, Zhang Y (2013) Satellite perspective of aerosol intercontinental transport: From qualitative tracking to quantitative characterization. Atmospheric Research 124: 73-100


Full Text: PG. 70-80 -- PDF