2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
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2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

E-MIST (Exposing Microorganisms In the STratosphere)

Left: Super TIGER-II Integration and Testing in July 2017; Right: E-MIST at float in October 2015 after launching from Ft. Sumner, NM.
A-454-M Research Location(s): Williams Field


Event Number:
NSF / NASA Agreement

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Kaija Webster

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. David Joseph Smith
NASA Ames Research Center
Space Biosciences Research Division
Moffett Field, California

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Williams Field


It is unknown how the extreme cold and dry Martian environment impacts the survival and response of terrestrial microbes. Exposing Microorganisms In the STratosphere (E-MIST) is a NASA balloon payload built to enable studies of Earth’s stratosphere, which closely resembles the Martian environment. Using this payload, the project will evaluate the survival and response of two bacterial species to Mars-like conditions in the stratosphere over Antarctica, flying as an additional study on the A-142-M (Binns / SuperTIGER 2) Long-Duration Balloon (LDB) mission.

Field Season Overview

E-MIST is an autonomous hardware system that mounts to the exterior of scientific balloon gondolas. It comprises four independent sample holders for exposing pre-loaded microbiological samples to the stratosphere which can then be returned to the ground for analysis. The project will fly five dormant microbial strains inserted inside the E-MIST payload in triple containment. The small instrument will be attached to the SuperTIGER 2 payload gondola frame.