A month after launching to the International Space Station, one-third of Project MERCCURI returned to Earth yesterday afternoon (May 18) aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule.
Dragon was detached from the International Space Station using a robotic arm controlled by the astronauts. Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California.
In the capsule, along with other experiments and supplies, were microbes the crew swabbed from high-touch surfaces inside the Space Station. Those surface samples will be sequenced at Argonne National Lab and compared to other samples collected from buildings here on Earth!
Forty eight of the Earth-based samples, collected at Science Cheerleader and SciStarter events, are still on the Space Station where their growth rates are being compared to each other and to their counterparts at the Eisen Lab (University of California, Davis, CA).
The third part of this study involved thousands of samples collected by citizen scientists across the country. These samples came from shoes and cell phones. The microbes will also be sequenced at Argonne National Lab and fed into the Earth Microbiome Map!