Joshua Borchardt, a 1st year on-campus Space Studies graduate student, worked with a microbial ecosystem lab at Ames Research Center during the summer, assisting in gas chromatography measurements of methane, oxygen, and nitrogen to help better refine the parameters for a biogenic signature of life of other worlds. His personal research was with lunar regolith simulant and how introduced plant growth, microbial communities, and ersatz urine (artificial urine) played a role in lunar regolith pedogenesis (the creation of a stable soil substrate from Moon dust). Dr. David Blake, the PI for the CheMin instrument on MSL also helped him run some samples on the ground based version of that instrument. He also collaborated with Moon Express and the team of Chris McKay and Bob Bowman, the mission to put a rover on the Moon as part of the Google Lunar X Prize. That team decided to experiment with the plant Borchardt was researching as a candidate to incorporate into that mission.
Borchardt had the opportunity to meet Bill Nye several times, many shuttle astronauts, scientists who worked on the Apollo missions, interacted frequently with Dr. Jill Tarter, Dr. Seth Shostak, Dr. Edna Devore, and Dr. Frank Drake at the SETI Institute, and also job shadowed the center director, Dr. Pete Worden, and often met with Dr. Lewis "Lew" Braxton and Dr. Jacob Cohen.