The "microbial playoffs" portion of the project is currently on hold, due to technical problems with equipment on the International Space Station. Any updates will be posted here ASAP. See below for more details.
-Collect/identify microbes to go to the ISS (DONE, See candidates here)
-Microbes will fly to the ISS and grow in microgravity (SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH at 3:25pm EST, April 18, 2014, EXPERIMENT HAS NOT TAKEN PLACE YET, PLATES STILL IN FREEZER ON ISS)
-Collect microbes from the ISS for analysis on earth (SWABS COLLECTED ON ISS, MAY 9th 2014, SWAB SAMPLES RETURNED TO EARTH MAY 18, 2014, ANALYSIS IN PROGRESS)
-Collect/analyze 3000 cell phone/shoe samples (ALL SAMPLES COLLECTED, ANALYSIS IN PROGRESS)
-Visualize cell phone/shoe data for public (EVENT MAP AVAILABLE, INTERACTIVE DATA VISUALIZATION TO FOLLOW)
-Generate educational materials for classrooms (Published March 2014)
Details on the "microbial playoffs" delay:
Our samples are being stored in a -80C freezer on the ISS. But, there is a problem with the equipment (plate reader) that will be used to run our "growth competition" experiment. The company that we are working with, NanoRacks is working hard to troubleshoot the problem. It isn't clear now whether there is a problem with the inner workings of the equipment or the touchscreen computer that is controlling it. Troubleshooting an equipment failure at 220 miles above the Earth at a speed of 4.8 miles per second is a challenging task! Right now, we are waiting for one of the astronauts to have time to help us. We hope that this will happen in the next couple of weeks. In the worst-case scenario, the equipment is broken and NanoRacks will have to bring it home to fix it. In the meantime, they are putting into place a plan to have a replacement plate-reader ready to be put into orbit within a year.