2019-2020 Science Planning Summaries
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2019-2020 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

E-MIST (Exposing Microorganisms In the STratosphere)

Exposing Microorganisms in the Stratosphere (E-MIST), flown to 31 km in 2015 onboard a large NASA scientific balloon.
Photo by: NASA
A-454-M Research Location(s): Long Duration Balloon Facility


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Kaija Webster / Chad Naughton

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: Long Duration Balloon Facility


The impact of the extreme cold and dry Martian environment on the survival and response of terrestrial microbes is unknown. 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. It will fly 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 will be mounted to the exterior of the SuperTIGER-2 payload. It is comprised of four independent sample holders for exposing pre-loaded microbiological samples to the stratosphere, which can then be returned to the ground for analysis. Five dormant microbial strains are inside the E-MIST payload in triple containment. Permits are in place to transport the samples through New Zealand, in accordance with the Antarctic Conservation Act.