Getting it done!

We’ve been fully consumed with the fabrication of the Mars yard and preparation for our third crew to be sealed inside of SAM, such that these blog entries have fallen behind. We promise to catch up soon!

The work at SAM continues, with our third crew Imagination I entering SAM on March 10 for a six days, five nights mission of a very unique design and objective.

The Mars yard is now fully framed with 200 linear feet of 8 foot tall plywood walls that await the arrival of two semi-truck loads of foam blocks, to be sculpted into a synthetic Mars crater.

A new hydroponics prototype is complete and operational with transition from ebb ‘n flow to NFT (nutrient film technique) for an improved delivery of nutrients with no water exposed directly to light to reduce algae growth.

A point-to-point wireless bridge now brings stable, high-speed data from SAM to the SAM Operations Center, and a rebuilt SAM email server provides a new time-delay email server for the crew members sealed inside.

Two more days before training the crew!

Stay tuned!

By |2024-04-24T16:37:25+00:00March 1st, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

P2P WiFi from SAM Ops to the Mars yard

P2P WiFi from SAM Ops to the SAM Mars yard at Biosphere 2

With the completion of the SAM Operations Center and Mission Control, it is imperative that we establish a point-to-point, ops-to-habitat wireless data feed in order that crewed missions are provided stable email communication, and for remote environmental control and life support systems (ECLSS) monitoring.

With the first two missions at SAM (Inclusion I and II) the data feed was provided by a dedicated cellular hotspot with the dedicated email server placed in the adjacent Mars yard. It worked flawlessly despite the ad hoc nature of that particular configuration.

In the fall of 2023 the University of Arizona provided SAM Ops with a dedicated fiber optic drop that is mostly outside of the standard UA network, meaning we manage the provided network from the demarcation in. This provides us with a good bit of autonomy and room to expand our infrastructure as we stand-up servers internal to our Operations Center and at SAM too.

For the third crew at SAM, Imagination I, we completed the second prototype of SIMOC Live, a version of SIMOC that receives live data from an ad hoc, mesh network of sensors hosted by Raspberry Pi Zero computers. Each of the nodes, in this iteration, are mounted on a plate of aluminum which is itself mounted in four locations across the habitat: lung, Test Module, Engineering Bay, and Crew Quarters.

The data is immediately visible on a touch-screen display in the SAM Engineering Bay, and then via a light-travel time delay (1.3 seconds for the Moon; 7-20 minutes for Mars) in Mission Control where the data is projected onto a wall-mount silver screen.

This invaluable project brought Ezio Melotti and Franco Carbognani from Italy, Christopher Murtagh from Canada (via Mexico), together with Matthias Beach and Kai Staats of the SAM team at Biosphere 2. How all of these people came together is a story in and of itself.

Chris was once a user of Yellow Dog Linux and then became the systems administrator for Terra Soft Solution, Kai’s company of ten years that produced the leading YDL operating system. Kai has relied upon Chris’ expertise for more than twenty years across a few startups and dozens of projects, from super computers at Argonne National Lab to film rendering in India to life support monitoring on Mars.

Franco and Kai met quite serendipitously in Cork, Ireland where they both attended the International Space University Summers Studies Program 2017. Franco was then and remains now a Senior Engineer at VIRGO, the Italian gravitational-wave observatory. At that time Kai was working through Northwestern University as a data analyst for LIGO, the American gravitational-wave observatory. Franco brought to ISU his expertise in ad hoc networks and miniature sensor arrays for the IOT (internet of things) thesis project. Two years later Franco introduced Ezio to Kai to assist with SIMOC development. Ezio is a leading core Python developer with more than twenty years experience in developing the language, code development, and training. Regular SAM team member Matthias brings a strong background in IT infrastructure build-out and was fully at home pouring concrete, standing up communications towers, running cables, and testing ethernet drops. Kai Staats has a strong background in super-computing architecture, basic sys admin, and like Matthias, IT infrastructure build-out.

For everyone to converge at Biosphere for SAM was … a dream come true. We could not ask for more experience, expertise, and enthusiasm. Thank you!

By |2024-04-12T22:18:43+00:00February 23rd, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Red Hen delivers SAM’s first Mars yard construct

Kai Staats maneuvers forklift to unload a section of a Hollywood set

Demian Vallone awoke at some ungodly hour only to stand outside the high bay doors of a Hollywood sound stage in the middle of a massive downpour while riggers and stage hands debated how, exactly, to load a massive Utah desert set onto the rented stick truck. He then drove from Los Angeles, California to Biosphere 2 fueled by little more than energy drinks, a journey that took more than ten hours. Late Thursday evening Demian arrived to SAM. Friday morning the forklift was delivered, then Demian, Kai, Matthias, and Ron Wood of the Biosphere 2 staff unloaded the multiple sections, one of which was quite tricky at 16 feet long.

Red Hen Industries is a full-service design and fabrication house with experiential designers, builders, inventors, and producers. Red Hen is contracted to design and build the SAM Mars yard and terrain park, what will be a world-class facility for experiential education and research.

This first piece of the SAM Mars yard was not part of the original design. This synthetic Utah landscape was built for a short-lived photo shoot, then found its way to SAM via Red Hen founder Danica Vallone who saw a unique opportunity to keep it out of the landfill, and at the same time, provide SAM with a good starting point.

Red Hen is a leader in reuse and recycle, and part of a group featured in this recent NPR story.

By |2024-04-29T13:34:42+00:00February 2nd, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Reduced Gravity Simulator Reinstalled

SAM Reduced Gravity Simulator being installed at its final position.

Following the test trolley runs, the Reduced Gravity Simulator was disassembled and taken down for a final coat of paint. Each component was labelled, cleaned, and painted. With the cooler temperatures the paint needed two full days to dry. Matthias, Luna, and Kai developed a system to lift the massive armatures to their higher, final position.

Following a full day of removing the basalt (simulated Mars regolith) by Matthias and Luna, each took turns tossing a pull line over the Mars yard roof support structure (we won’t mention the number of tosses required), then pulling a 600lbs nylon line over. With two pulleys for a 2:1 block and tackle lift, Kai used his climbing harness and belay device to hold the armatures steady between lifts by Matthias and Luna.

Once at the height of the small angle iron shelf already secured to the building support beams, the top and bottom U bolts were fastened. As with the first, lower position, aligning the ends of the armatures was relatively simple. Using the nuts on the U bolts themselves, the armatures were moved with a high degree of accuracy, to within 1/8th of an inch tip to tip.

The four sections of track were replaced, the machine screw holes aligning perfectly.

In this new, higher position, the original test trolley is a bit awkward to sit upon, but remains functional as an overhead system. The first gravity-offload will be built and tested soon.

By |2024-03-02T06:51:21+00:00February 1st, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

SAM Operations Center is operational

Welcome to the fully refurbished SAM Operations Center at Biosphere 2

The SAM team enjoyed an incredible work week, an all-hands-on-deck, sunrise to sunset (and beyond) engagement with Matthias, Luna, Sean, Bindhu, and Kai engaged in a non-stop effort to complete the SAM Operations Center and Mission Control, as well as advance the Mars yard into its next stage of development.

– shower tiles are grouted and cleaned
– sink is installed
– vanity light is installed
– toilet is set
– sliding doors and new head are hung

– countertop brackets are installed
– countertop template (plywood) is set
– butcher block is in-house; needs to be cut
– induction cook top arrived; waiting to be installed
– sink and faucet arrived; waiting to be installed

*Conference Room*
– 65″ TV installed
– 5.1 home theater speakers installed, cables run
– chairs and conference table cleaned
– “The Martian” watched !!!

*Mission Control*
– 4 mission control desks are installed
– LCD projector installed
– silver screen installed
– sound bar installed (and it sounds amazing!)
– all sheetrock work completed, painted
– IT rack assembled (needs to be reduced in size)

– all electrical breakers replaced
– fibre optic drop, ethernet, and WiFi are working with asynchronous 200 Mbps
– floors are washed (a few times)

– reduced gravity simulator removed and painted
– TM and 40′ hatches inspected, temp patched
– TM outlined on the Mars yard workshop floor
– hydroponics rough layout established; plans made
– Mars yard boulders moved (not an easy task)

This week we will:
– re-install the RGS at its working height
– build the gravity-offload rig (and test)
– remove the prototype Mars yard and basalt (ugh!)
– prepare for delivery of a 20′ section of our sculpted Mars yard on Thursday

We kicked butt and got a LOT done! And this next week we again have our work cut out for us!

By |2024-02-15T16:00:21+00:00January 26th, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Work at SAM Ops continues …

Kai Staats setting the front door at SAM Operations Center, Biosphere 2

For as laborious as it may appear, our team has enjoyed nearly every minute of this completely normal office remodel. We don’t have to worry about maintaining a hermetic seal, or the structural integrity of a hull under pressure, or the circulation of air and CO2 monitoring—rather, were engaged in the rapid (by comparison) efforts to reinforce and level a new kitchen cabinet, hang two new doors, scrub bathroom tile, install a toilet, paint, and rewire a few outlets.

By |2024-02-15T16:20:56+00:00January 19th, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Update from the SAM Operations Center

Today, Thursday, January 11 marks the fourth day that our team has returned to SAM since a few days before the Christmas holiday. We all needed the break after another three months of intense activity. Mason and Natasha have returned to Europe, with Bindhu and Sean in their home towns of Dallas and Chicago respectively, conducting research and working on SAM related projects from afar.

Matthias, Luna, and Kai engage daily with Atila balancing his graduate degree, thesis research, and time at SAM. We will all come together again in just twelve days for a week of intense, hands-on work at SAM. For the remainder of January our goals will be the continued renovation of the building we now claim as the SAM Operations Center, a return to the reduced gravity simulator, and the installation of the new array of hydroponics racks, shelving, nutrient tanks, runs, and computer control systems.

What’s more, we are preparing for the construction of a 3000 sq-ft Mars yard, co-designed and expertly crafted by a leading Hollywood set design company. Stay tuned for the official announcement and design details!

The SAM Operations Center is nearly fully transformed from a former storage facility for B2 house keeping to an elegant, modern facility with conference room, workshop, storage, library-den, full bath, kitchen, and a full-featured Mission Control Center complete with desks for four officers and heads-up displays for SAM monitoring and communications.

Our first team lead by Christopher Cokinos will be in SAM the second week of March. Our own SAM team members will be establishing baselines for CO2 production in preparation for a full suite of bioregenerative experiments October-December 2024.

2024 is the year we fully transition from construction to scientific studies, data collection, and building our legacy in human space exploration.

Stay tuned!

By |2024-01-12T15:04:32+00:00January 11th, 2024|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Five generations of human space exploration

Five generations of human space travel celebrated at the SAM Operations Center

Application of a large format vinyl print to the interior doors of the SAM Operations Center at Biosphere 2

Each of the five interior doors at the SAM Operations Center now celebrates one decade in human space exploration, with Mercury-Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle, and ISS in bold, large format prints. We are proud to make five generations of technological advancement and scientific endeavor central to our new Operations Center and Mission Control.

This was our holiday gift to ourselves, something out of the ordinary, something that will for many years to come give visitors reason to smile when they enter our facilities. We thank Ann Persnel and the team at West Press of Tucson for their expert printing and installation.

By |2024-01-17T17:17:12+00:00December 22nd, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Reduced Gravity Simulator

Reduced Gravity Simulator at SAM

The reduced gravity simulator (RGS) at SAM is installed and operational with a single-axis test trolley. This marks completion of one of the most unique and advantageous components of SAM when coupled with pressure suit and rover mobility research. In it’s current state the RGS allows the SAM team to safely test various configurations of trolley and gravity-offload rigs before elevating to the nominal operating height. Once the gravity-offset rig is integrated, the entire 50 (15m) foot assembly of welded, tubular steel armatures and raceway will be raised to 12 feet (4m), providing a variable reduction in apparent weight from Mars (1/3) to Lunar gravity (1/6) to microgravity.

Once again we thank James Parker and the master welders at the University of Arizona welding shop for a perfect fabrication of the five RGS armatures.

Learn more about the history of reduced gravity simulators and the RGS at SAM and watch a video of the test of the static trolley.

By |2024-03-30T01:08:07+00:00December 1st, 2023|Categories: Construction|0 Comments
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