NASA is sending bacteria into the sky during the total solar eclipse

NASA and Montana State University are ready to send loads of bacteria into the stratosphere. But don't worry; it's all for science.

Teams across the U.S. will release about 100 balloons during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. They'll float around 85,000 feet in the air, and each balloon will have cameras for video and photos, as well as a tracker.

Some of those balloons will also carry samples of a highly resistant bacteria. NASA scientists want to see how it reacts to Mars-like conditions.

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NASA photos show why the Paris Agreement was signed
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NASA photos show why the Paris Agreement was signed

Photographs from the 1940s to the 2000s show the drastic impact of climate change on our planet's glaciers. Here is a photo of Alaska's Muir Glacier, pictured in August 1941 (left) and August 2004 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Here's the snow that remained on Matterhorn Mountain in Switzerland in August 1960 (left), compared with August 2005 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Starting in the 1970s, NASA began using satellite images to document deforestation in several national parks around the world. Here's Mount Elgon National Park in Uganda in 1973 (left), compared with the park in 2005 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

The deforestation of Argentina's Salta Forest is starkly visible in this pair of photos from 1972 (left) and 2009 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

More deforestation is visible in Kenya's Mau Forest in these photos from January 1973 (left) and December 2009 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

A similar story applies to Kenya's Lake Nakuru National Park, shown here in 1973 (left) and 2000 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Deforestation is also prevalent in the South American Atlantic Forest in Paraguay — here's how it looked in 1973 (left) versus 2008 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

This area of Rondonia, Brazil was heavily deforested between 1975 (left) and 2009 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

So was the Baban Rafi Forest in Niger, from 1976 (left) to 2007 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

These images show the deforestation of Mount Kenya Forest in Kenya, 1976 (left) vs. 2007 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Climate change began to take a more extreme toll on glaciers in the 1970s as well. Here is a photo of Qori Kalis Glacier in Peru in 1978 (left) and again in 2011 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

These images document melting ice in Ecuador, from March 1986 (left) to February 2007 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Beginning in the 1980s, NASA also documented shrinking lakes across the globe, starting with this photo of Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado in 1987 (left). The same park is shown in 2011 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

The Aral Sea in Central Asia shrunk drastically between 2000 (left) and 2014 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

So did the Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico. Here it is in 1994 (left) and again in 2013 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Rivers have been shrinking in Arizona and Utah as well — these images compare them in March 1999 (left) and May 2014 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Argentina's Mar Chiquita Lake shrunk significantly from 1998 (left) to 2011 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

And deforestation continued to take a toll as time went on, as evidenced by this pair of images of the Mabira Forest in Uganda in 2001 (left) and the same area just 5 years later (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Droughts have affected the US intensely over the past few years as well. Here are three images of water drying up in Kansas, taken in 2010 (left), 2011 (middle), and 2012 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

Iran's shrinking Lake Urmia is pictured below in July 2000 (left) and again in the same month in 2013 (right).

Photo Credit: NASA

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The upper part of Earth's stratosphere has conditions very similar to Mars' atmosphere at the surface. There, the air is thin, and the environment is cold and full of radiation. During the eclipse, Earth's atmospheric conditions will become even more like Mars.

The experiment aims to test the limits of living things on Earth.

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Eventually, the balloons will pop, and devices will send the data and bacteria down to the ground. NASA will compare the stratosphere bacteria with samples left on Earth to see what changed.

Researchers say they hope to learn a lot from the balloon experiment. And here's a bonus: The onboard cameras will livestream the eclipse on the internet for millions to watch.

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