Q: What is an “analog”?
According to Webster, an analog is something that is similar or comparable to something else as being “analogous”. In this respect, a swimming pool is an analog for a lake or the ocean in that you can learn to swim in a pool before venturing out to an open body of water. NASA and other space agencies have used analogs since the 1950s as a means to train specialists in the use of specific equipment or in practicing procedures vital to the real-world mission.

Mars analogs are a means to practice procedures and explore strategies on Earth before moving into the much more hostile environment of interplanetary space or the surface of our Moon or Mars. There are several former and active analogs today.

Q: What do you do in an analog?
Participants in SAM treat their experience, whether five days, a month, or more as a true, off-world mission. All systems, communications, and daily routine are engaged as though the air outside cannot be breathed and the resources for the duration are those limited to what is inside of the habitat modules. Daily routines will vary from team to team, but there are fundamental functions that are consistent, namely:

  • Daily, routine communication with Mission Control.
  • Daily food preparation, cleaning, and waste management.
  • Daily, sometimes more frequent monitoring of life support systems.
  • Routine maintenance of the SAM habitat modules.
  • Tending to the plants in the Test Module, and any experiments inside of SAM left by prior research teams that require regular or unanticipated attention.
  • Conducting research as prescribed by the particular mission objectives.
  • Tell stories, play musical instruments, board and card games, learn a new art form or just spend time alone.

Q: Do I have to be a graduate student or have a PhD?
No, you do not. It is strongly advised that if no one on a given team is trained as a scientist (Masters or Doctorate) or has not conducted scientific studies (ideally validated through peer reviewed publication) that an advisor be associated with this team, and available to guide the team’s research functions to meet the stated objectives.

Q: What kind of science is done at SAM?
This is best answered on this page

Q: What type of research can I propose?
This is best answered on this page

Q: Are artists, writers, or filmmakers allowed to participate too?
Yes! As an integral part of a science research team, or as an all artist team. But as with a research team, an art team must also produce a solid proposal with the mission objectives and outcomes clearly defined.

Q: How does SAM differ from other analogs?
SAM can be operated as a hermetically sealed environment, meaning teams can elect to have all of their air recycled with minimal import of additional air during the mission. This makes for a far more challenging and labor intensive habitat environment where every action, every function has a direct affect on the immediately environment in which the crew members work and live.

Q: How many people can be inside at one time?
From 1 to a maximum of 4.

Q: How long do teams stay inside of SAM?
From 5 days to several months, with the ideal, minimum mission being one month.

Q: Is there cellular service / mobile reception? Internet at SAM?
To start, mobile phone reception on the Biosphere 2 campus is spotty at best. Stand on one leg, wear an aluminum cap and you might hold a conversation from start to finish. But even if you do get your phone to work, it is strongly encouraged that team members do not bring their mobile phones into SAM. Doing so works to diminish the total experience of the analog. As with backpacking or remote camping, it is the removal of real-time communication that engages us in a more memorable, gratifying experience. Furthermore, if you were really on Mars you would wait a minimum of a half hour for an answer to a question, so why not make your experience at SAM as real as possible?!

The internet will function as a real-time pass through or up to 20 minutes delay, one-way from SAM to the Mission Control Center located on the Biosphere 2 campus, but out of line of site from the habitat. Team members will select from 0 to 20 minutes delay, one-way, and the communications server will be programmed accordingly prior to the start of the mission.

Q: Are there food or other restrictions at SAM?
All crew members will be restricted to a 100% vegetarian diet. Dried grains, fruits, and vegetables are provided for the duration of the mission. Some frozen foods may be included (TBD). Depending on the grow cycles in the Test Module, fresh fruits and vegetables may be available for harvest. Crew members are provided cook books and recipes left by prior crews. Each team member is allowed to bring a personal food allowance, typically favorite chocolate or sweets, that must fit within the confines of a personal storage bin carried into SAM on the first day.

All shampoo and personal hygiene supplies must be approved by SAM staff, as the chemicals in most off-the-shelf products can clog the water recycling system, or cause a breakdown in the bioregenerative functions. No toxic cleaning supplies (e.g. bleach) are allowed.

Q: I have dietary restrictions, can I bring my own food?
If there is a true, medical allergy this can be discussed. Personal dislikes are not restrictions.

Q: If there is an emergency, how do I get out?
Each team lead will be given a radio that provides real-time access to the operations managers at Biosphere 2. There is someone on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has been for more than thirty years. This will be used for emergencies only, with first intent to resolve the situation without breaking simulation—if possible.

If there is a medical emergency that cannot be managed internal to SAM, or if there is a malfunction in the SAM air, water, or waste management systems that results in a potential threat to personal health, with agreement by the team and SAM management the mission simulation will be terminated.

If there is ever an immediate, life threatening emergency (e.g. fire), team members are instructed to walk out. The simulation can be restarted, but a life cannot.

Q: What is the cost? How do I sign up?
This is best answered on this page