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SAM Operations Center

SAM Operations Center, new floor

The SAM Operations Center is well underway with three weeks completed. The storage room is painted, floor down, and shelves built. The workshop walls and floor are complete, with workbenches to be installed soon.

Stay tuned!

By |2023-11-26T04:51:52+00:00November 22nd, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Primary renovation of the Mars yard superstructure is done

Luna Powell painting the sliding door of the Mars yard at SAM

Last week Matthias and Luna built a quick prototype of a Mars yard wall section, the intent to visualize the avrage height and angle of a small section of what will be sculpted concrete over expanded steel. With the close of this week Matthias installed the final sheet of steel paneling on the sliding door then trimmed west wall roof sheets (installed in July 2022) while Luna painted, and Kai installed the new power distribution panel.

It’s been a long, hot summer followed by a far too warm September and October with a series of projects in the SAM Mars yard renovation that took far more resources than anticipated. With Matthias Beach in the lead, Sean Gellenbeck, Tasha Coelho, Mason Robbins and Natasha Nichols worked sequentially for the removal of all no-longer-needed electrical conduit, chasing new electrical wiring through the conduit that was retained, installation of a new electrical power distribution panel, mounting all new, outdoor rated electrical sockets, replacing the mostly defunct lighting (as one would expect after thirty five years), and a complete reconstruction of the west wall in order to install new steel siding.

The end result is incredibly rewarding as the Mars yard superstructure is very well lit, with isolated circuits on every wall, and a clean power distribution panel on a brand new backboard. With the new roll-up doors and steel roof overhead, the building is now completely secured from the weather, and from the critters too.

By |2023-11-27T16:18:26+00:00November 3rd, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

A little organization goes a long way

Kai Staats drilling a hole in the new SAM workbench

If one on my team members asks for the whereabouts of a tool more than once, then we have a breakdown in our organizational system and are wasting time. Stop and fix the system!”

Small, well organized teams can run circles around a larger, comparable entities, especially when their overhead is low and assets are well managed. Small teams respond to changing environments with less drag, and set course corrections by direction of a single leader or a raise of hands. But the means by which any size team organizes its “stuff”, analog and digital, determines if it holds accumulating assets or a growing burden.

Day 1 at SAM with Kai and Trent

SAM started with Kai Staats, Trent Tresch, a broom, two angle grinders and a face shield, two orbital sanders and a box of sand paper. Fast forward nearly three years and SAM is defined by a half acre of land, some 9,000 square feet in building space, and ample tools and supplies to fabricate just about anything in wood, plastic, or metal.

New workbench and tool cart at SAM While we have maintained a regimen of organization, returning tools to their respective bins each evening and conducting a total inventory with the close of each week, we made due with the funds raised in each phase of development. We used plastic bins for tool storage and unused sheets of steel covered with cardboard as our workbench, just inside the north bay door of the Mars yard structure.

Storage rack at SAM With advanced funding secured in July we saw an opportunity to improve our organization and related efficiency. We acquired a Husky mobile tool cart and a few more power tools to replace those yet on loan from our staff members. We gave new life to a discarded Biosphere 2 metal shop workbench topped with two sheets of recycled plywood. For us, this was a dream-come-true—our very own workbench and a dedicated tool cart.

The half day spent in building the workbench paid for itself in the first week. With the complete re-organization of every tool, bolt, nut, and washer; every strand of wire, every plumbing fitting, and every tube of silicone (Thank you Luna!) have dedicated, labeled bins and drawers.

By |2023-11-26T21:11:47+00:00October 30th, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Walls, wiring, and wild things

Two bobcats greet Kai and Mattahias as they head down to SAM at Biosphere 2

“The bobcats at Biosphere 2 are anything-but-timid, curious, and clever. They watch us work by day and explore the Mars yard by night. When the work is overwhelming or the two-week task drags into its second month, its the wildlife that keeps us entertained and lighthearted.” — Kai Staats, Director of Research for SAM at Biosphere 2

The west wall of the original Biosphere 2 botanical garden Rain Forest Greenhouse, now our Mars yard and workshop, holds the power distribution for the entire facility. We’ve been working up to this point for a year and a half, with the removal of the old roof, installation of the new roof, and work this summer in July, and August and September.

This week saw the completion of the monumental west wall reconstruction, more than six weeks in the making. It required a systematic reassembly of the overhead load-bearing structure in order to insert the new corrugated steel wall panels into the overhead C-channel and against the steel base. After thirty years, some sections were so badly worn that we had to contract a local sheet metal shop to duplicate the exact profile and provide new pieces. All new plywood sheeting was installed to provide the backdrop for the new electrical panel and power distribution. With all new wire already in place, we will now complete the electrical wiring at each new socket and lighting.

From botanical garden to storage building to workshop and Mars yard, this former greenhouse has seen a variety of functions. And as with the TM and lung, the SAM team is once again breathing new life into old structures.

By |2023-10-25T02:19:07+00:00October 20th, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Leak Detection

Preparing for a pressure test in order to isolate leaks in SAM at Biosphere 2

As with any pressure vessel, SAM has leaks. The current leak rate is higher than desired, therefore we are working to locate the holes, apply patches, and bring the total leak rate to a minimum. Our intent is to hold pressure for one week such that 6-day missions can pressurize the facility once, and with future, longer missions air will be added in a quantitative manner once each week, at most.

Recall that SAM has three modes of operation, where the first two missions were running in Mode 2, pressurized with flow-through air with a high degree of air quality monitoring, as noted in the data analysis. Inclusion II conducted two Mode 3 experiments in the course of their mission.

In the first part of June, Sean Gellenbeck and Matthias Beach isolated the lung from the rest of SAM, and then the lung and Test Module from the rest of SAM. In each instance they conducted a pressure test by raising the lung to roughly 36″, then closing the inlet valve and terminating the blower. The height of one of the eight lung feet was measured from the floor, and then again once each five minutes for one hour. The drop in height over time provides the total leak rate through the loss of the known column of air below the fixed diameter lung pan and membrane.

Leak rate = Pi * r^2 * drop (inches) * time (minutes)

While we do calculate the leak rate by volume of air, for ease of visualization we present it here instead as the loss in height of the lung.

With a max height just under 10 feet and a minimum height at zero, when one of the eight legs and feet touch the ground, the rate of descent is constant as the mass of the lung exerts the same pressure on the underlying column of air independent of its height. The temperature was measured with each height reading in order to provide raw height measurements and the height adjusted for temperature changes according to the ideal gas law.

The lung was found to have no significant leak rate, in fact, the lung rose during the one hour test due to a minor temperature increase. The lung and Test Module combined demonstrated a 1.3 inch lung drop per minute, or roughly 3.5 days sustained pressure if starting from the max height of 10 feet. The leaks in the Test Module will likely be readily corrected with a full application of silicone where two replacement windows were installed last spring.

Natasha and Kai conducting a pressure test at SAM, Biosphere 2 In the first and second week of October, Kai, Luna, and Natasha moved into the next important test—isolating the Engineering Bay (20 foot shipping container) from the Crew Quarters (40 foot shipping container) such that the lung, Test Module, and EB are treated as a single vessel.

This proved to be a bit of a challenge as three electrical conduits, one fire detection conduit, and one water pipe run from the Engineering Bay into the Crew Quarters, making it very difficult to seal. It was determined that pulling all conduits was the simplest way forward. This included disconnection of the fire detection system, which required the UA Fire Marshall. Once the interface to the 20/40 bridge was clear of conduits, we sealed the far side with a plastic tarp and aluminum tape.

The lung, Test Module, and Engineering Bay combined demonstrated a leak rate of 0.1 inch lung drop per minute, or 19 hours sustained pressure if starting from the max height of 10 feet.

We have some work to do!

By |2023-10-25T15:19:08+00:00October 13th, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Mars EVA suit demonstrated at Mars Society

Dr. Cameron Smith in a live demonstration of a Mars EVA suit at the Mars Society Conference 2023

The following was written by Dr. Lawrence Kuznetz:

No spacesuit to date or in the planning stage has made mitigating the forward and backward spread of potential pathogens to and from planet Earth a priority. Doing so isn’t easy. But as JFK famously said, “We do this things not because they are easy but because they are hard, and that brings out the best of us.” Which brings us to the “MarsSuit” and the MQS (Mobile Quarantine Suit), the topic of this email.

Stopping pathogen spread for the Artemis EMU was never a priority since the Apollo Program’s quarantine procedures (lunar receiving lab, etc.) found none and deemed protection unnecessary. Mars is a different story. Human missions to Mars will encounter a far more likely chance of pathogen exposure than the lunar surface.

It was for this reason that I chose Spacesuits and Life Support Systems for the Exploration of Mars as the topic of my NRC Post-doc at NASA-ARC, and followed that with a series of courses, conferences, related projects at NASA. The resulting technical outcome was using the Martian atmosphere for torso pressurization, thus enabling mass savings, puncture protection, and other radically different features. The concept maturation went on for decades as described in a plethora of reports, studies and presentations.

In the midst of the pandemic, everything changed. A mind-bending confluence of events involving a cruise ship entrepreneur and a PhD hot air balloon-jumping pressure suit designer (Dr. Cameron Smith) led to seed funding and prototype fabrication. The first “MarsSuit” prototype and a higher pressure rev 2 version verified the radically different concept of operations in 2022. It became abundantly clear that the same technology embodied in the MarsSuit’s planetary protection feature could also be migrated to a Mobile Quarantine Suit (MQS) capable of mitigating future and more serious pandemics on Earth by providing:

  • Barriers to pathogen entry or exit (BEBE)
  • Face to face exposure elimination (FFEE)
  • Cooling fog-free airflow
  • Ease of doffing and donning (2 minutes or less)
  • Lightweight comfort (less than 2 lbs)
  • Reusability (as opposed to single use PPE)
  • Rapid Disinfection ability
  • Redundant changeable and evolvable filters
  • Redundant ventilators
  • Cost effectiveness (projected <$200 / year vs >$3500 PPE / year)
  • Far greater protection than mask mandates

For more information, visit: Planetaryprotek.com

By |2023-10-30T20:10:29+00:00October 6th, 2023|Categories: Research & Development|0 Comments

Mars Society and Robert Zubrin visit SAM

Mars Society and founder Robert Zubrin visit Biosphere 2 and SAM

[from left to right: Olivia Drayson, Michael Laine, Kai Staats, Bruce Mackenzie, Caleb Pool, Daniel Thompkins, Hope Zubrin, Robert Zubrin, Doug Plata, Andre Fernandez, and Ashton Zeth]

We are honored to have Mars Society Robert Zubrin and several 2023 conference volunteers and staff visit Biosphere 2 for a tour of the historic facility and SAM. Director of Research for SAM at Biosphere 2 Kai Staats provided the group with a four and a half hours tour including all of the biomes, historic living quarters, south lung and ‘technosphere’, and then SAM and the adjacent Mars yard and terrain park, currently under construction.

It was an engaging morning and afternoon with plentiful conversations and debates for the challenges of humans establishing long-term residence on Mars.

By |2023-10-23T16:12:59+00:00October 4th, 2023|Categories: Visitors to SAM|0 Comments

Close of Summer at SAM

SAM Mars yard pieces and parts

SAM blackboard TODO list Through the intensity of a record breaking heat, Matthias, Sean, and Tasha, Mason and Natasha were steadfast in their summer-long effort in renovating the 1980s Biosphere 2 rain forest greenhouse into what will house the SAM Mars Yard and Terrain Park. When complete, the 2200 sq-ft sculpted concrete Mars crater will provide SAM crew members on EVA the physical sensation of moving over the varied terrain found on Mars, within a visually engaging representation of a crater.

The primary efforts this summer were:

  • Pull all existing electrical wiring.
  • Remove all electrical conduit that will not be used again.
  • Rebuild the electrical panel on the west wall.
  • Run all new electrical wiring, installing new circuits such that electrical sockets are readily available on all four walls and down the central support beams, with consideration for continued use of the workshop and future Mars yard where fans, lights, and cameras will be employed during crew EVAs and rover competitions.
  • Rebuild the entire west wall, replacing all fiberglass paneling with corrugated sheet metal siding.
  • Install two roll-up garage doors on the east wall of the structure.
  • Replace all polycarbonate panels on the east and west walls (to be completed).

As with all remodels, it always takes longer than anticipated. But if we knew how much work these endeavors would be, we’d probably never start for the overwhelming nature of what laid ahead.

By |2023-10-21T22:34:08+00:00October 4th, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

A journey through space and time

Mason and Matthias

by Mason Robbins

In a quiet corner of the historic Biosphere 2 campus, a team of dedicated individuals continues their mission, now in progress for nearly three years. SAM (Space Analog for the Moon and Mars) is expanding to include a massive indoor Mars yard, a terrain park that works to replicate the harsh environments of the red planet right here on our own planet Earth. Over the past several weeks, they’ve made remarkable progress in bringing the massive, indoor SAM Mars yard to life.

Join us on a journey through time and space as we delve into the captivating narrative of their ongoing work … with photos coming soon!

The Journey Resumes (Week of 7th August 2023)
With three years of dedicated effort behind them, the team carried on work at SAM, ready to take their project to the next level. Their first task was to untangle the complex web of electrical wires and conduit that had evolved over time. With precision and patience, they meticulously labeled and toned out 95% of the wires, bringing a sense of order to the chaos. The quarter-steel wings that lined the support posts were given attention, as sanding commenced, preparing them for future use. A trip to Home Depot was on the agenda, with Kai picking up essential parts for the upcoming phases. Work on the yard’s electrical blueprints began to take shape.

Crafting the Foundation Anew (Week of 14th August 2023)
The team approached their tasks with a deeper understanding of the project’s intricacies. They set out to complete the sanding and priming of bay door headers, now with a well-honed technique. Unneeded conduit and wire were removed, further simplifying the yard’s layout. Electrical backboards received the sand-prime-paint treatment, ensuring they would stand up to the challenges ahead. Collaboration with Kevin, the electrician, yielded progress on J-box placements and switch wire toning. Another Home Depot visit followed, expanding the growing parts list. On the east wall, electrical preparations were made for the removal and installation of new poly panels. The steel for the west wall arrived and was carefully offloaded and stacked.

Assembling the Pieces with Seasoned Expertise (Week of 21st August 2023)
The team supervised and assisted the C&D doors team as they embarked on the installation of two bay doors. Backboards and frames received their finishing touches with a fresh coat of paint. An electrical junction box was installed on the west wall, accompanied by the meticulous process of re-labeling wires. Conduit and wire that had outlived their purpose were removed, streamlining the setup. Plans for J-box cut-ins and a 3-way switch were laid out with Kevin. A meeting with the general contractor regarding crater walls and poly panel installation shed light on the project’s broader scope. New drawings were created to assist poly installers with roof measurements, and parts runs to Home Depot continued. Meanwhile, a unique challenge presented itself as the team battled a persistent wasp population.

Pushing the Boundaries with Three Years of Wisdom (Week of 4th September 2023)
As they pressed onward, the team leveraged their experience, their focus on the west wall, and the intricate task of fitting panels within the c-channel guided by Kai’s expertise. Multiple visits to metal fabrication shops ensued, driven by the need to re-manufacture horizontal support beams. Abbott Metal Fab emerged as a potential partner, with a template beam dropped off for a quote. Home Depot remained a reliable source for parts, as the team worked to make electrical piping align with the new panels. East and North Wall Power boxes were mounted with precision. Conduit runs that obstructed progress were ruthlessly removed, and updates were shared with Kai through photos and emails.

As we reflect on these past three years of intense effort and dedication, it’s evident that the SAM project is not just about creating a physical space analog; it’s about the meticulous planning, collaboration, and relentless pursuit of perfection that will eventually propel humanity to new frontiers. Each day brings new challenges and discoveries, and as the SAM team continues to work tirelessly, they inch closer to realizing their dream of simulating the conditions of Mars right here on Earth. Stay tuned for more updates as we follow this incredible journey through space and time.

By |2023-10-21T21:45:56+00:00September 8th, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Interview for Biosphere 2 Podcast

Space Analog for the Moon and Mars
by Aaron Bugaj

In this episode we are joined by Kai Staats. Kai is a veteran developer, designer, filmmaker, and scientist. Kai is the Director of SAM, Space Analog for the Moon and Mars, here at Biosphere 2. SAM is a hi-fidelity, hermetically sealed Mars habitat analog with greenhouse, living quarters, airlock, pressure suits, and a half acre Mars yard. Since 2021 Kai and his team have been constructing SAM, and just last month, SAM hosted it’s first two sealed missions, Inclusion 1 and Inclusion 2.

In this podcast, Kai takes us on his journey to build SAM. Breaking down the inspiration for SAM’s creation, and the research goals for SAM’s future.

Listen to the full interview via Spotify or Apple Podcast

By |2023-08-16T21:04:28+00:00August 16th, 2023|Categories: In the news|0 Comments
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