Abstract

Exposure to the environmental conditions of “near-space” (AKA the stratosphere) is quickly fatal to nearly all forms of animal life. It is even challenging to build a sealable enclosure that can keep insects (crickets) alive through the dramatic and simultaneous pressure and temperature drops experienced during a high-altitude balloon mission. This poster describes the development of a rugged “cricket keeper” in which we were able to fly crickets to the stratosphere and, quoting the words of JFK, “return (them) safely to the earth!” This “life-support” payload had large windows (for the view!) and included Arduino-logged temperature and pressure sensors, an autonomous resistive heater circuit to maintain a comfortable internal temperature even when the outside temperature fell below -50° C, and a radio telemetry system by which internal conditions could be relayed to the ground and commands (to reset the Arduino or to query it for sensor data, for example) could be uplinked in real time. The status of the “crick-o-nauts” was monitored during the flight with a video camera and also assessed upon recovery. Due to the relatively short duration of the flight – about two hours – supplementary oxygen was not provided. Food was provided, but was optional for this flight duration. This educational payload project gave us new insights into some of the many of the challenges that NASA, and other space agencies, must overcome to provide life-support for human spaceflight missions.

 

The “Stratospheric Cricket Keeper” – Developing a Simple“Life-Support” Payload for High-Altitude Balloon Missions

Exposure to the environmental conditions of “near-space” (AKA the stratosphere) is quickly fatal to nearly all forms of animal life. It is even challenging to build a sealable enclosure that can keep insects (crickets) alive through the dramatic and simultaneous pressure and temperature drops experienced during a high-altitude balloon mission. This poster describes the development of a rugged “cricket keeper” in which we were able to fly crickets to the stratosphere and, quoting the words of JFK, “return (them) safely to the earth!” This “life-support” payload had large windows (for the view!) and included Arduino-logged temperature and pressure sensors, an autonomous resistive heater circuit to maintain a comfortable internal temperature even when the outside temperature fell below -50° C, and a radio telemetry system by which internal conditions could be relayed to the ground and commands (to reset the Arduino or to query it for sensor data, for example) could be uplinked in real time. The status of the “crick-o-nauts” was monitored during the flight with a video camera and also assessed upon recovery. Due to the relatively short duration of the flight – about two hours – supplementary oxygen was not provided. Food was provided, but was optional for this flight duration. This educational payload project gave us new insights into some of the many of the challenges that NASA, and other space agencies, must overcome to provide life-support for human spaceflight missions.