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John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: (650) 604-5026
December 20, 2006
Mission Status Report: NASA Experiment on GeneSat-1 Satellite Excites Scientists
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – Scientists conducting a biology experiment carried by NASA's GeneSat-1 Earth-orbiting satellite have been issuing upbeat reports.

GeneSat-1 is a 10-pound satellite carrying bacteria inside a miniature laboratory, which has been orbiting Earth since its launch on Dec. 16, 2006. Here are recent examples of updates from the GeneSat-1 researchers.

"Mission Day 4; Biology Experiment Day 2. We continue to get excellent performance and data from the GeneSat-1 spacecraft," John Hines, GeneSat-1 project manager at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., reported Dec. 19.

"During this mission, we are exposing bacteria to the space environment to see how they are affected," Hines explained earlier. GeneSat-1's onboard micro-laboratory includes sensors and optical systems that can detect proteins that are the products of specific genetic activity.

Tony Ricco, GeneSat-1 chief technologist said, " The results to this point are nothing short of spectacular. All the subsystems appear to be performing flawlessly. Optics are making stable measurements; fluidics have fed the E. coli (bacteria). The 'bugs' are growing well and glowing. Temperature, pressure and humidity are stable, at the right values."

"The E. coli began showing growth, from the light scattering measurements, about 2.8 hours after the valve opened to introduce the nutrients," Ricco said. "By about 10 hours after feeding, nine of the 10 bio-wells showed measurable growth. (A range of growth rates is expected because there are two different E. coli strains, and the exact number of bacteria that initiate the growth varies from well to well)," Ricco continued.

"By nine hours after feeding, the fastest growing well showed the first expression of green fluorescent protein. By about 20 hours after growth start, six of 10 bio-wells showed definite green fluorescence; two more appeared to be just edging above baseline," Ricco noted.

"Temperature is remarkably stable, sitting in a band less than one degree C. wide as the satellite goes in and out of sunlight. The pressure and RH clearly show the effects of the orbital period, as expected; the temperature barely shows it; and the optical readings show no sign of the major temperature and illumination swings going on outside having any effect at all on the biology," Ricco said.

Bruce Yost, GeneSat-1 mission manager, also submitted a status report about the satellite's on-going biological experiment.

"Mission status: We are now in (the) experiment phase," Yost reported. "The experiment has been activated, and data (are) being down-linked both via the beacon and the primary communications link (two to four passes per day). We are currently working no anomalies," he added.

Yost also reported on the spacecraft's status. "All GeneSat systems (are) operating nominally," he said. Discussing the biology and technology status of the mission, he added, "First look data indicate all payload systems (are) fully operational. Growth curves (OD) indicate (there is) growth of bacteria. . . .Experimental data quality is excellent." According to Yost, researchers will continue to collect data daily during "one to two passes per day (of GeneSat-1.)"

"My hat's off to the whole team for an incredibly successful demonstration. This is success," Ricco concluded.

For more information about GeneSat-1, please visit:

Technical readouts from the GeneSat-1 mission can be seen on the GeneSat-1 dashboard on the Internet:

The Small Spacecraft Office at NASA's Ames teamed up with industry and local universities to develop the fully automated, miniature GeneSat spaceflight system that provides life support for small living things.

GeneSat-1 was designed and built at NASA Ames, and the mission is being managed from Ames. The satellite was launched Dec. 16, 2006, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. GeneSat-1 was a secondary payload on an Air Force four-stage Minotaur 1 rocket that also delivered the Air Force TacSat 2 satellite to orbit.

Publication-size images are available at:


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