Postcards from Mars

Mars yard takes form

UA welders Charlie and Chad framing in the Mars yard bay doors at Biosphere 2

Following six months straight construction, the Analog Astronaut Conference and two sealed missions, the SAM crew took a much needed break. With the close of May, Matthias Beach, a space enthusiast with a background in the military and telco moved from volunteer to staff to head up the continued construction of the SAM Mars yard.

This 6400 square-foot facility was in the late ’80s and early ’90s the rain forest greenhouse for Biosphere 2. It served as a staging facility for the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) more than a decade ago but has sat mostly empty since. The roof panels had fallen to ruin and were removed by Kai, Tim, Colleen, and Luna in the spring of 2022. A new roof was installed that July. In the final days before the first sealed mission at SAM, Matthias and Tasha completed the construction of a prototype Mars yard in miniature, in which both crews of four were able to explore in a pressurized suit during their respective EVAs. The Inclusion I and Inclusion II crews demonstrated the value of such a facility, even in its then simple, sandbox form.

Now, the effort is expanded to completely gut the original electrical wiring, remove all unused conduit and support structures that once gave greenhouse heaters purchase; replace the florescent lights with modern, brighter LED panels; install roll-up garage doors in each bay, and by the close of the year, install a massive sculpted, hand-painted, synthetic rock Mars crater!

Matthias Beach and Sean Gellenbeck have taken on this arduous task in the peak heat of the Arizona summer, having to remove a small army of skeletons (literally) while fighting a never ending battle with very aggressive wasps (sometimes the wasps win; sometimes the humans). The past six weeks are captured, in brief, in these twenty photos.

By |2023-09-12T16:34:07+00:00July 14th, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

DoubleTap features Andy Squires, Inclusion II

DoubleTap feature hands-on reviews, guidance, opinion, interviews and conversation around accessibility in the tech industry. The interviews and programs help the audience better understand how technology can assist in everyday life. In this episode, host Marc Aflalo interviews Andy Squires, Accessibility Officer for the Inclusion II mission to SAM the second week of May 2023.

Listen here: where Andy’s interview starts at 27:20.

By |2023-08-02T21:19:58+00:00July 10th, 2023|Categories: In the news|0 Comments

SAM receives $1.5 Million from State of Arizona

The Space Analog for the Moon & Mars at Biosphere 2 has received $1,500,000 funding from the State of Arizona congress, as the governor passed this bill into law with the close of June 2023.

This incredible initiative was made possible by lobbyist and space enthusiast Brett Mecum and the Senator David Gowan who wrote the bill, introduced SAM Director Kai Staats to both the House and Senate for his presentations, and attended the exit of the first crew to attend SAM on May 2, 2023. Senator Gowan has demonstrated a keen interest in space exploration and recognizes the multi-fold value and international recognition it brings to the University of Arizona and the State of Arizona.

This is a game-changer for SAM, enabling us to move ahead for three years with dedicated funding for construction of the massive indoor Mars yard and upgrade of the SAM facilities.

We cannot thank Senator Gowan, Mr. Mecum, and the Arizona House and Senate for their support of our effort at the University of Arizona Biosphere 2 to help our species become interplanetary while advancing research and education in the sciences.

The funds are being immediately applied to construction of the Mars yard, carrying forward our nearly three years effort to build this leading, world-class research facility.

Thank you!

By |2023-09-13T06:18:05+00:00July 1st, 2023|Categories: In the news|0 Comments

A much needed break

The turtles that snip at the heals of the chipmunks that spin the wheels that wind the springs that drive the automatons to write the essays that accompany the photos taken by the unsung heroes of the Fourth Planet Revolution are, for what may feel like an eternity to you who wait patiently, taking a break.

Construction of the full Mars yard commences with the first week of June. However, updates to this forum will be shared a little less frequently than in the prior phase due to all efforts to slow the Earth’s rotation and thereby increase the productive hours in day having failed. As such, said heroes of the Revolution, automatons, chipmunks, and turtles will be unable to process, color correct, and publish associated photo essays in the course of these not-long-enough summer days.

By |2023-07-14T16:02:18+00:00May 22nd, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Crew Inclusion II completes second mission at SAM!

Crew Inclusion II upon exit of their six days mission at SAM, Biosphere 2.

Above (back row): Dr. Brandy Nunez, Mission Director; SAM Staff: Luna Powell, Matthias Beach, Trent Tresch, Kai Staats, and Sean Gellenbeck (not present Tasha Coelho); (front row) Bindhu Oommen, Commander; Keridwen Cornelius, Crew Journalist; Andy Squires, Communications Officer, Accessibility; and Sahda Haroon, Engineer. (not present: Brenda Trinidad, Mission Control and Eric Shear, Mission Support).

Crew Inclusion II completed it’s six days mission at a Space Analog for the Moon and Mars (SAM) at Biosphere 2. Commander Bindhu Oommen, Engineer Sahda Haroon, Communications & Accessibility Officer Andy Squires, and Crew Journalist Keridwen Cornelius initiated depressurization of the habitat at 10 AM PDT, and a few minutes later were received by original Biospherian Linda Leigh who opened the hatch and greeted them on the airlock landing.

The crew accomplished nearly all of their mission objectives, including monitoring the CO2 and pressure during two Mode 3 experiments; a point-sampling of CO2 levels throughout the habitat in comparison to stationary sensor arrays; a sampling of the four stages of water use (potable, condensate, gray, and waste); a step by step review of the newly completed Standard Operating Procedures manual for SAM by crew commander Bindhu Oommen; a digital analysis of the acoustic spaces present in SAM’s unique structure; assembly and use of a 3D printer for a variety of tasks, including a 3D map of SAM, a tactile representation of collected data, and a surgical scaple; and four EVAs as noted by Tucson Channel 4 KVOA reporter Megan Spector who was on-site from 4:30 am.

Journalist Keridwen Cornelius lead the culinary exploration with incredible outcomes, starting with the bread recipes recorded by the first team a week prior, then moving to develop a blueberry compote, a variety of vegetable soups, and an apple crumble. The crew completed their mission with twelve gallons of water to spare from the original 60.

They consumed fresh lettuce from the hydroponics each day and in the final 24 hours were able to harvest pink oyster mushrooms from mycelia grown on a straw substrate peppered with the dehydrated, ground, inedible biomass (food scraps) from the first crew. This demonstrates complete recycling of food waste in this hermetically sealed, pressurized habitat analog.

Data and mission objective reports coming soon!

By |2023-05-22T19:34:54+00:00May 15th, 2023|Categories: In the news, Research & Development|0 Comments

Tucson KVOA News Channel 4 at SAM

In preparation for the completion of the second mission at a Space Analog for the Moon and Mars (SAM) by Crew Inclusion II, KVOA reporter Megan Spector arrived at 4:30 am to capture the anticipation of the hours leading up to this event. She reported live from within one of the two pressure suits built by Smith Aerospace Garments while standing in the prototype SAM Mars yard.

By |2023-05-16T15:01:08+00:00May 15th, 2023|Categories: In the news, Research Teams|0 Comments

Crew Inclusion II – CapCom report Day 4

Each morning and evening CapCom lead Brenda Trinidad supplies the crew members (via email) a set of questions in a standardized document (Word, LibreOffice). The crew take time to reflect on the questions asked, and deliver their responses to CapCom and Mission Support (Ground Control). In the official mission-end debrief we will reflect upon the daily summaries and how the Mission Support, CapCom, and the crew can improve future missions, as well as how the facility itself can be improved, especially in these early missions.

The following are extracted from open email exchanges to CapCom (not from the personal, daily reflections) for Saturday, May 13, 2023.

“Good Morning Bindhu, Sahda, Andy, and Keridwen, Welcome to Day 4!

We are past the halfway point of the Mission! Attached are the Daily Mission Report templates for today, note there are two new questions in the Personal Reflections Section of the reports addressing this moment in the mission. Please be advised that this evening’s CAPCOM WIndow will be 7:00P to 11:00P, 4 hours, to account for dinner and evening EVAs. I will send you an email announcing the opening of the window.

Australian tree frog Keeping in the spirit of National Holidays, today one Earth we celebrate National Frog Jumping Day! In 1865, Mark Twain published his first short story, Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog. Later, he changed the name and published it as The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. This same story also had a third title, The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Of all the frog jumping contests that take place across the country, the most well-known might be the Calaveras County Frog Jumping Contest if for no other reason than Mark Twain wrote a story about it.

The current frog jumping record was set in 1986 by Rosie the Ribeter, who jumped 21 feet, 5-3/4 inches. (How high/far could a Martian frog jump?)

Hopefully you are not ‘leaping’ from task to task as much, settling into a comfortable routine” –Brenda Trinidad, CAPCOM out

“Good evening!! Successful day today. Completed two more EVAs early morning. Everyone continued in their research projects through the late afternoon. Now, we continue to enjoy a splendid evening here at SAM. Had an incredible Italian soup prepared by Keridwen. Andy plays the guitar (we had him play Space Oddity three times), as the rest of us sit around doing our reports. 🙂 The smell of apple crumble fills the air.” –Bindhu

“Please find my report for today. I’m currently printing the rest of the hexagonal chess set. They look so cool. Thanks again! We postponed Bindhu’s surgical tool printing for tomorrow. Just to let you know in advance, we will need a surgical needle holder, a scalpel (with blade) and a map of the Jezero crater.” –Sahda

“Andy, this is so beautiful, your song, your voice… this soothed my soul after a rather hectic day.” –Brenda, CapCom

“Thank you Bindhu, Sahda, Keridwen, and Andy for today’s reports. Given the previously submitted suggestions for streamlining the Daily Reports, I want to take a moment to thank you not only for today, but for each day taking time to complete this report. I am especially touched with what each of you shared today, a definite shift in comfort level it seems.

We did not get a chance to talk about an intended purpose for these reports for a variety of reasons … thank you for your trust in the process. As with everything with these two Missions, this part of Mission Control is still a work in progress. As one interested in developing communication and research tools that tap into the human factors side as well as the ethnographic/ emerging analog astronaut cultural aspects of simulated missions, these daily reports help tremendously towards creating both standardized and flexible reports that can meet a multitude of needs.

Tomorrow’s daily report will be a bit different in light of your last full day being on Mars. I will explain more in the morning email. I am so motivated and proud to be part of your experience so far. Enjoy the rest of your evening, I can almost smell the apple crumble from here.” –Brenda Trinidad, CAPCOM out

By |2023-05-14T19:46:53+00:00May 13th, 2023|Categories: Research Teams|0 Comments

Crew Inclusion II – EVAs

Keridwen Cornelius, Crew Journalist
Keridwen’s EVA objective was to test a variety of communication tools: a gel pen with a stylus, a NASA approved pen, and a pencil on paper, plus a cell phone (SIM card removed).

The challenge of dexterity while encumbered by pressurized gloves is true no matter the fidelity of the pressure suit. As with NASA astronauts, Keridwen experienced the challenge of fine motor control when visibility and dexterity are limited. She had to remove the pen and paper from a plastic bag, then write a message with each pen or pencil. She succeeded in taking legible notes. She then attempted to take notes and photos using the cell phone and stylus but found she could not even successfully press the phone’s home button with the pressurized gloves or the stylus, rendering the phone useless. She then buried the bag for Bindhu to locate and retrieve, on the next EVA.


Bindhu Oommen, Commander
Bindhu’s EVA objective was to retrieve the “lost” bag dropped by Keridwen in the prior EVA, and to obtain a soil sample.

Given that Keridwen did not tell Bindhu the location of the package, Bindhu had to navigate the entire Mars yard, following Keridwen’s tracks into the boulder field in order to retrieve the package.

Bindhu brought with her a set of vials and labels. Despite the challenge of dexterity in a pressurized suit, she was able to obtain a soil sample in a glass vial and apply a label before returning to the airlock.


Andy Squires, Communications Officer, Accessibility
Andy’s EVA objective was to simulate navigational assistance provided to a crew member on EVA who has due to an accident lost his vision. Andy worked to cut and then tie webbing into an ad hoc harness such that he could be guided to safety by another crew member (in this simulation, that guidance was provided by Matthias Beach).

The challenge of dexterity and stability within a pressurized suit is very real. As Andy is blind, he had to manage terrain which he had never explored, use tools through the challenge of inflated gloves, cut webbing, and use of a trekking pole as his cane. He did exceptionally well, and helped both his crew and the SAM staff in their understanding of the limitations of the pressure suits for future EVA missions.


Sahda Haroon, Engineer
Sahda’s EVA objective was to simulate an in-field repair of a communications console which disabled their suit to habitat communications. The crew had in the prior days developed a complex set of hand signals used to communicate between Sahda and the airlock during her EVA.

Sahda was successful in navigating from the airlock to the Mars yard and to the console (a 1980s power panel repurposed for this EVA). She used a variety of tools to remove a power terminal, strip a wire, and repair the downed comms link, all the while using the hands signals to with Commander Bindhu who was visually monitoring her progress from the airlock viewing port.

Learn more about the pressure suits employed with SAM EVAs.

By |2023-07-25T21:04:34+00:00May 13th, 2023|Categories: Research Teams|0 Comments

Crew Inclusion II – Microgreens, apple pie, and 3D printed chess

Hello Brenda and everyone,

Hello from Mars! We are continuing to rock it, I think. So, today I tried to take the next step in growing our microgreens. Brandy kindly brought us Hamama brand microgreens, and the broccoli is bursting at the seams. The label says to remove the cover today. I assumed that I could just pull the brown paper off the top, but it’s attached by some kind of gel to the entire root system. So I don’t know what it means to remove the cover, and the directions are probably on the box that we don’t have. Can you help?

Also, National Apple Pie day is coming up, so we would like to bake one. I think a pie crust is impossible without fat, so I was thinking of doing an apple crumble with dehydrated (rehydrated) apples on the bottom and a crumbly topping made of oats, hazelnuts, crushed shortbread cookies, maybe pretzels, and possibly applesauce to make it cling together. Could you please send an Instant Pot recipe for apple crumble?

Also also, Sahda would like .STL-.3MF files for chess characters (king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, pawn) for the 3D printer. She says it’s not a good idea to get a file for a whole chess set, because then she would have to print the whole thing (and we don’t need a chessboard). But if we have a file for each kind of chess figure, we can print them individually and maybe only print a couple and future teams could print more. It’s National Chess Day, as I’m sure you knew 😉

Also also also, the 3-D printer came with a nozzle cleaner that looks like the love child of a sewing needle and the swab you stick up your nose in a COVID test. She doesn’t know how to use it. The printer type is a Creality Ender-3S1 Pro. Could you please find instructions for using it?

Thank you so much!


By |2023-05-12T02:20:07+00:00May 11th, 2023|Categories: Research Teams|0 Comments

Crew Inclusion II – First Report

Kai, Brenda, and all of Mission Control,

On behalf of Sahda, Andy, Keridwen and myself, hello!! Everyone is doing very well. Within the first hour, the crew was already on its way to their planned tasks.

Andy has set up his sensors and has begun programming. Sahda has been diligent in monitoring the lung height and within 20 minutes completed assembly of the 3D printer; now she is working on leveling. Keridwen made a very delicious lunch, and is already attending to the hydroponics based on her training yesterday to correct EC.

Regarding one of the first projects to monitor CO2 levels, we have sensors established at the south end of the CQ and Andy has his sensors working too … We will provide updates in the daily mission report.

This is fun!

Thank you all,

By |2023-05-11T14:00:15+00:00May 10th, 2023|Categories: Research Teams|0 Comments
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