Name: Margarita Safonova
Affiliation: Indian Institute of Astrophysics
Conference ID : ASI2022_679
Title : SAMPLE - A Method of Collection of Stratospheric Samples Using Balloon-Borne Payload System
Authors : Margarita Safonova (IIA), Bharat Chandra (IIA), Binukumar G. Nair (IIA), Ajin Prakash (IIA), Rekhesh Mohan (IIA), Richa Rai (IIA), Akshay Datey (IISc), Dipshikha Chakravortty (IISc), Ramananda Chakrabarti (IISc) and Jayant Murthy (IIA)
Abstract Type: Oral
Abstract Category : Instrumentation and Techniques
Abstract : Earth possesses many environmental extremes mimicking conditions on extraterrestrial worlds. Earth’s stratospheric conditions at 30-40 km altitude are very similar to the surface of Mars: with same pressure, average temperature, and even same levels of solar UV and proton radiation, and Galactic cosmic rays. Microbial habitation in troposphere is known and well documented, however, very little is known about the true upper limit of the Earth’s biosphere. Stratosphere provides a good opportunity to study the existence, or the survival, of life in these conditions. Despite the importance of this topic to astrobiology, stratospheric microbial diversity/survival remains largely unexplored, probably due to significant difficulties in the access and in ensuring the absence of contamination. We are developing the balloon-borne payload system SAMPLE (Stratospheric Altitude Microbiology Probe for Life Existence) to collect dust samples from stratosphere and bring them in to a suitable laboratory environment, where further study will be conducted in establishing the possibility of microbial life in the upper atmosphere. The payload consists of pre-sterilized sampling trays, and a controller which will determine the altitude of the payload system to actively monitor the opening and closing of the collection trays. For additional contamination control, we will have two extra trays, one of which will fly but not open, and one that will remain closed on the ground. Other on-board devices include environmental sensors, GPS tracking devices, cameras to monitor the balloons and an FTU (Flight Termination Unit) to terminate the flight after the payload has reached the desired height and on completion of the sample collection. Upon retrieving the payload, the sampling trays (including controls) will be sent to a suitable laboratory where the samples will be examined for the presence and the nature of collected material.