The sources of the dust are in general arid regions on the African, Asian, and Australian continents. Florida receives nearly 50 million metric tons of African dust each year, with most dust arriving during July and August. Although huge quantities of dusts are transported each year throughout the atmosphere, very little is known about the microbial diversity in the dust plumes, including the presence of plant, animal, or human pathogens.
In addition, the upper boundary of life in the atmosphere has not been established. And finally, spacecraft processing facilities at KSC are exposed to African dust plumes each summer, and the microbial bioloads in the dusts may be impacting the processing of spacecraft lounched for orbital missions. Thus, it is important to characterize the microbial diversity of dust plumes arriving in Florida in order to better
In order to develop collect dust from trans-oceanic dust plumes, a dedicated wing-mounted pod on the F104 Starfighter is under development. The overall project will be called DART for Dust Altitude Recovery Technology. The DART system will be designed such that up to 12 units can be integrated into a dedicated wing mounted pod for the F104.
The project will engage engineering students from UCF to technically evaluate three designs for dust sampling devices, down-select to one DART dust sampling design, build at least 2 working prototypes, and conduct test flight in 2013.