In the wake of several
misleading news headlines
, researchers at Cranfield University in the U.K. have had to set the record straight: No, they're not looking for aliens in Earth's atmosphere.
But they are looking for microbes floating around in the stratosphere, at altitudes up to 22 miles. The
Cranfield Astrobiological Stratospheric Sampling Experiment
(CASS-E) team hopes to launch a balloon any day now from the ESRANGE launch center in Sweden. Taking a census of the single-celled critters that can survive in such an extreme environment will help scientists stake out the limits of biological adaptability, and help them design instruments for future life detection experiments on other planets.
Follow the team's progress here