SAM leverages the world class expertise and facilities at the University of Arizona, Biosphere 2, and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC). SAM is a hi-fidelity analog and research station built upon 5 principal lines of research:
- The transition from physicochemical (mechanical) to bioregenerative (plant-based) environmental control and life support systems (ECLSS), and the continuously shifting balance of these two as humans enter and exit, and crops are planted, consumed, and harvested.
- The transformation of simulated regolith (crushed basalt) to fertile soil. This builds upon several years, on-site operation of Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO), the world’s largest laboratory experiment in the interdisciplinary Earth sciences, located at Biosphere 2. The intent is to learn how to rapidly develop fertile soil with harsh starting conditions.
- Crew arrival, departure, and EVA evaluation of tools, construction and repair, data collection, and communication while encumbered by pressure suits and the testing of rovers and autonomous vehicles in a simulated terrain Mars yard.
- A study of the evolution of the microbial community of a transitional, hermetically sealed space occupied by both humans and plants.
- Computer models that accurately describe a functional, sustainable, long-duration hybrid ECLSS. In particular, SIMOC will be programmed to model SAM and eventually, learn to manage SAM’s life support systems through the application of machine learning.