From @Jennomics (a co-PI on Project MERCCURI):
Status update for Project MERCCURI: Our [surface] 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.
If you collected shoe and cellphone samples, have no fear. Those samples are being sequenced at Argonne National Lab and we will post the findings on SpaceMicrobes.org before too long! We will share updates here and, of course, email everyone who asked to be notified of the findings!
In the interim, we thought you’d enjoy this infograph shared by Cassie Ettinger (@casettron ), a genetics and genomics PhD student at UCDavis: