SAM at B2 with Trent Tresch and Kai Staats

After two and a half years in research and development, networking and team building, chasing dollars and fund raising, this is the day we can officially say, “SAM IS BEING BUILT!”

SAM is a hi-fidelity, hermetically sealed analog and research center composed of a crew quarters, airlock and hub, and greenhouse with temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide level controls. When complete, SAM will include a half-acre Mars yard for pressure suit, tool use, and rover tests. Located at the world renowned Biosphere 2 outside of Oracle, Arizona SAM is built around the original Test Module, a 480 cubic meter sealed greenhouse with passive pressure regulation system designed and built by Taber MacCallum, William Dempster, Bernd Zabel, and fellow Biospherians in 1987.

Kai Staats, Director of SAM at Biosphere 2 offers, “A lifetime of renovating old homes has granted me both a strong set of skills and a deeply seated fear of getting in over my head. It is clear that building something from scratch is often far simpler and less effort than to remodel. Yet in the process of remodeling is an honoring of the original designers, a tribute to the past, and promise for a future beyond the original intend. As my father has shared when I am overwhelmed by home remodel projects, ‘We don’t really own a property, rather we are caretakers. Property is a gift, an opportunity to improve upon something someone else built and leave it in better condition than when we found it, for the next generation.’

“I repeated these words over and over again today as I opened boxes from Graingers, organized tools, and prepared systems for providing power and water with Trent, John and his incredible Biosphere 2 staff. SAM is no small undertaking, but what we are setting out to do is breathtaking. We are building a kind of spaceship, a vessel that takes its inhabitants to a distant world without ever leaving this planet. We are working to inspire explorers, learners, and citizen scientists across the globe with a vision for how we will soon live on the Moon and Mars. SAM is informing our future, a careful blend of scientific regimen, imagination, and a little bit of magic too.

“In this endeavor I am honored to be working with the incredibly positive, intelligent, and savvy beyond his years Trent Tresch without whom this first stage of SAM construction would simply not be possible. I thank Joaquin Ruiz, Executive Director and John Adams, Deputy Director of Biosphere 2 for two years of support to get to this day, and Tech Launch Arizona for financial support of this first stage of construction. The Biosphere 2 mechanical engineering and operations staff are nothing shy of selfless as they dedicate hours of their time to deliver tools, resources, and experience. And the landscaping crew cleared the way for our work over the past two weeks, else we’d be pushing back the relentless thorns of the desert for a week, at least. SAM is being built by a team, and for that we are grateful.”

So how was our first day? The desert is full of critters that find pleasure in excreting biological waste in every corner of the built environment. N95 masks to the rescue, gloves, and clothes that remain outside when we retire to our accommodations on campus. Trent (with a little help from me toward the end) scraped and removed some twenty gallons of decrepit filth from the upper deck of the interior of the Test Module lung—a job no one wants, but has to be done. Tomorrow, we dive back in!

Learn more about SAM, a Space Analog for the Moon and Mars …

SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch

SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch SAM at B2 with Trent Tresch and Kai Staats