SAM is a dynamic platform and infrastructure for ever expanding research and experiential learning. It is our goal to provide visiting teams a rich personal and team experience both inside and outside of the Test Module (greenhouse) and crew quarters. Hi-fidelity, fully operational equipment and systems mirror those employed now or in near-future flight and habitation systems. The following details some of the integral components incorporated into the design of the total SAM facility.

Test Module at SAM, Biosphere 2

Test Module
In 1987 Test Module was built as a prototype to the Biosphere 2. This hermetically sealed space proved atmospheric and water recycling, food production, waste management, and mitigation of atmospheric pressure changes. The Test Module serves as the Controlled Environment where hydroponic and grow bed experiments are conducted, food cultivated, and waste recycled in an integrated bioregenerative life support system. Learn more …

Lung at SAM, Biosphere 2

The Test Module lung is a gravity motivated, variable volume pressure regulation system composed of a 3,800 pound steel pan that floats on a cushion of air. A flexible membrane attached to the lung’s lower chamber maintains the hermetic seal. The mass of the pan exerts a continuous, downward pressure on the column of air which in turn pressurized the Test Module. This maintains an internal pressure over ambient atmospheric pressure without the use of power or machinery. Learn more …

An automated pressure regulation system for SAM, Biosphere 2

Automatic Pressure Regulation System
In the fall of 2020 Biosphere 2 Deputy Director John Adams and SAM Director Kai Staats engaged a University of Arizona Engineering 498 Capstone team in the design and fabrication of a working prototype of an automated pressure regulation system for the SAM crew quarters. The functional components of this prototype will be integrated into a fully functional internal pressure regulation system, eventually providing an automated means to control the SAM Air Intake Room blower and electric actuated valve controls. Learn more …

Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen conducting an EVA in the Mars yard at SAM, Biosphere 2

SAM incorporates a fully functional airlock for movement between the Mars yard and entry to the crew quarters. This airlock has two pressure doors, one on each end, and enables crew members to venture in and out of the habitat without depressurizing the entire vessel. The air used to repressurize is drawn from within SAM, and is compensated by the automated pressure regulation system.

CO2 scrubber at SAM, Biosphere 2

CO2 Scrubber
In 2021 SAM received a fully operational, prototype CO2 scrubber built by Paragon Space Development Corporation for NASA to establish a baseline. In 2022 a UA Capstone Engineer team use SAM as a testbed for a NASA-funded swingbed CO2 scrubber prototype. In 2023 the SAM team will design and construct its own swingbed CO2 scrubber for use in fully sealed missions at SAM, where captured CO2 is compressed and delivered to the plants in the Test Module controlled environment.

Pressure suit at SAM, Biosphere 2

Pressure Suits
SAM crew have at their disposal the use of two pressure suits for all EVA missions into the Mars yard. Developed by Dr. Cameron Smith of Smith Aerospace Garments, these high fidelity systems incorporate a pressurized bladder (1-4 psi over ambient) and cover-all garment for a realistic experience. The regulated airflow source can be an umbilical chord to SAM or a self-contained Mars cart with compressed air (SCUBA tank). Learn more …

Mars Yard at SAM, Biosphere 2

Mars Yard
SAM incorporates an indoor and outdoor Mars yard. The 6,400 square foot (600 square meter) indoor yard and terrain park provides visiting team members with the challenge of fine grained basalt coupled with a variety of terrain features for pressure suit, rover, and drone tests and exploration. This yard will incorporate a synthetic lava tube and gravity off-set rig. The outdoor Mars yard is designed to be resculpted to support visiting teams, competitions, and construction projects.

Lava tube at SAM, Biosphere 2

Lava Tube
A 12 foot (~4 meter) radius, 30 foot (~9 meter) long synthetic recreation of a lava tube will enable both human and robotic vehicles to repel through a skylight to the tube floor, simulate exploration, then navigate back to walk- or drive-out opening. As humans are very likely to build long-stay habitats beneath the surface of Mars, lava tubes are predicted to provide a safe construction site, radiation shielding and potential pressurization in place.

Gravity off-set rig at SAM, Biosphere 2

Gravity Offset Rig
Co-designed by Hollywood stunt coordinator Christopher Leps and SIMOC project lead Ezio Mellotti, this 3-axis crane and and rig will provide finite control of perceived gravity, enabling users to experience “reduced gravity” during boots on-the-ground exploration of the SAM Mars yard and scaled crater. Learn more …

Mission Control at SAM, Biosphere 2

Mission Control Center
SAM will soon include a 1,200 sq-ft Mission Control Center (MCC), a building separate from the SAM habitat and Mars yard but on campus at the Biosphere 2. The MCC will include a projection screen for real-time data and communications monitoring, workstations, small workshop for on-site repair of equipment, break room to prepare simple meals, and a private conference room for outside communication and virtual meetings.