SAM at B2, image by Bryan Versteeg

A Space Analog for the Moon and Mars (SAM) is a hermetically sealed habitat located at the renowned University of Arizona Biosphere 2. SAM integrates the Biosphere 2 prototype Test Module greenhouse with an adjacent workshop, kitchen, common area and living quarters with support for 1-4 inhabitants from days to months. A CO2 scrubber built by Paragon SDC provides mechanical life support. An airlock leads to an adjacent half acre Mars yard where pressure suits, rovers, and drones can be tested. The greenhouse provides soil-based and hydroponic grow environments, controlled lighting, humidity, heating and cooling. The Mars yard will be modeled after a crater selected by NASA as the first human landing site. In addition the SAM Mars yard will include varied terrain and select obstacles, a massive synthetic lava tube with skylight for other-world cave exploration, and a gravity off-set rig to provide the experience of exploring on foot in lower gravitational fields.

  • A greenhouse built from the historic Biosphere 2 Test Module
  • A bermed 8’ x 8’ x 40’ crew quarters and massive 1/2 acre Mars yard
  • A fully functional, pass-through airlock
  • ECLSS support for crew of 4; from 5 days to several months stay
  • Use of flow-through suits for simulation entry and exit, and full pressure suits for EVAs
  • Simulated regolith (crushed basalt) grow beds and hydroponics
  • Support for biology, ecology, robotics, human factors, and more …
  • Support for dozens of simultaneous experiments
  • Full interior climate control
  • WiFi data delivery, remote monitoring and control
  • On-site accommodations for support crew and equipped mission control center
  • Access to adjacent biology lab to stabilize samples and conduct basic analysis


Test Module at Biosphere 2 In 1987 the 480 cubic meter Test Module was built as a prototype to the Biosphere 2. This hermetically sealed greenhouse and living space proved the functions of atmospheric recycling and potable water generation, food production and waste management, and mitigation of thermal expansion and contraction – total environmental control and life support for a single human sealed within. The longest closure lasted for three weeks. SAM integrates the fully refurbished Test Module as a research greenhouse and integral component of a bioregenerative life support system.

There is no single-run experiment that can result in an ideal solution for providing breathable air, potable water, food production and waste reprocessing for long-duration human space exploration. Rather, SAM will see unfolding experiments, findings, and prototypes for years in the making. Much as farming evolved from the art of crop rotation to the science of GPS driven cultivation and genetically modified organisms, living on the Moon, Mars, and in free space will demand constant improvements in our systems as humans move to new homes among the stars.