Students will be flying balloons that have cards with dried bacteria on them during the eclipse to supposedly study the effects on microorganisms that come along and attach themselves during the ride.
In an article called, “Eclipse Balloons to Study Effect of Mars-Like Environment on Life”, NASA says,
A larger initiative, NASA’s Eclipse Balloon Project, led by Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University, is sending more than 50 high-altitude balloons launched by student teams across the U.S. to livestream aerial footage of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse from the edge of space to NASA’s website.
“Total solar eclipses are rare and awe-inspiring events. Nobody has ever live-streamed aerial video footage of a total solar eclipse before,” said Angela Des Jardins. “By live-streaming it on the internet, we are providing people across the world an opportunity to experience the eclipse in a unique way, even if they are not able to see the eclipse directly.”
A research group at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, is seizing the opportunity to conduct a low-cost experiment on 34 of the balloons called MicroStrat, to simulate life’s ability to survive beyond Earth – and maybe even on Mars.
NASA will provide each team with two small metal cards, each the size of a dog tag. The cards have harmless, yet environmentally- resilient bacteria dried onto their surface. One card will fly up with the balloon while the other remains on the ground. A comparison of the two will show the consequences of the exposure to Mars-like conditions, such as bacterial survival and any genetic changes.
Listen via videographer, DAHBOO77, explain the event: