Gravity Assist: Life in the Clouds, with David J. Smith
High above our heads, even beyond 120,000 feet up, scientists have found tiny organisms called microbes. These high-flyers were swept up from the ground by winds and storms, or spewed out through volcanic processes. While most of these high-altitude microbes are dead, some are still alive, or have produced material called spores that could activate in the future. David J. Smith, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, uses airplanes to collect these microbes, analyze them in the laboratory, and expose them to even higher altitudes with balloon experiments to see how they will respond. If microbes can inhabit our clouds, what about other planets? While more research is needed, Smith and others are fascinated by the possibility that airborne microbes could also be found elsewhere in the solar system, and beyond.