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. But 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 clearly defined outcomes.

Q: How does SAM differ from other analogs?
SAM has three modes of operation. In Mode 3 SAM is operated as a hermetically sealed and pressurized vessel, meaning crew 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 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 6 days to several weeks, with the ideal, minimum mission being two weeks.

Q: How do crew communicate with the outside world?
Crew are not allowed to bring active cellular phones into SAM. All SIM cards are removed. If your phone does not have a SIM card, the phone will not be allowed to enter with you. This is imposed due to the fact that cellular phones cannot communicate with Earth from the Moon or Mars due to the delay in packet handling and the breakdown of the TCP-IP handshaking protocol.

As for the internet, only email is enabled for the same reason as not allowing active phones (above). All crew members are given a unique name@samb2.space email address for the duration of their mission. The SAM systems administrator has built a light travel-time delay server and router that blocks all ports except secure email, and invokes a delay of 1 to 20 minutes, one-way as selected by each crew based on their mission destination.

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. 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 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 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 halted, the issue corrected, and then continued if possible.

If there is ever an immediate, life threatening emergency (e.g. fire), team members are instructed to simply 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 the SAM Crews page …