The upcoming solar eclipse has fascinated people from all over the world who are looking forward to experiencing this once in a generation celestial event.
However, according to NASA, the solar eclipse could be useful in another way.
Representatives from the space agency claim that the solar eclipse will give their scientists a unique opportunity to study the way in which bacteria will respond on the surface of Mars.
To study these effects, researchers plan to release balloons containing bacteria at the same moment of the eclipse.
But is everything as clear-cut as the space agency has suggested?
SOMETHING’S WRONG ABOUT NASA ’S BALLOON EXPERIMENT
The bacteria that NASA plans to release into the atmosphere is referred to as Paenibacillus xerothermodurans.
This bacteria, which was discovered on the outside of a spacecraft assembly facility at the Kennedy Space Center back in 1973, is considered to be one of the most resilient forms of bacteria known to humanity but it is not considered to be harmful to other organisms.
According to a representative from NASA, the balloons will be released by teams of high school and college students from various locations across the United States.
Thirty-four of the balloons will contain the microorganisms which have been dried onto the surface of the balloons using metal cards approximately the same size as a dog tag.
One of the cards containing the bacteria is intended to fly into the stratosphere whereas another will stay on the ground to function as a control group.
Eventually, NASA researchers believe that the balloons sent into the stratosphere will burst because of the low pressure.
The burst will trigger a parachute which will allow the balloon and bacteria to fly down to Earth slowly enough to allow it to be tracked by GPS.
Following that, NASA will recover the metal tags and examine how the bacteria responded.
It is said that the conditions of the solar eclipse may mirror the conditions on the Martian surface well enough to give researchers an indication as to how bacteria will survive on the Red Planet.
While NASA has gone to great lengths to explain this unusual study, suspicions have been raised that their representatives are not telling the whole story.
Some people have pointed out that while the cold temperatures and increased burst of solar radiation will make the stratosphere slightly more similar to the conditions on Mars than it usually is, it will not mirror the conditions on the Red Planet perfectly.
Therefore, it seems deeply unlikely that the researchers will be able to gather solid information about how bacteria interact on the Red Planet from this study.
This criticism has led to the suggestion that there is far more to this study than NASA is letting on.
Sceptics have pointed out that the United States government has proven that it is more than willing to spray their own citizens with biological agents such as bacteria and harmful chemicals without their knowledge or consent in the past.
They have also pointed out that the celestial bodies can have a profound effect on living organisms and that the space agency may actually wish to see how living bodies respond to bacteria during a unique celestial moment such as a solar eclipse.
For these skeptics, this is actually a much more dangerous experiment which will involve unwitting human beings, and the Mars story is nothing more than a poor attempt at a cover up explanation.