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April 26, 2023

Media Advisory: Crew to be sealed in pressurized habitat at Biosphere 2

  • What: A four-person crew will embark on a six-day mission in which they are locked in an air-tight, pressurized habitat on Biosphere 2 grounds.
  • When: Media should meet at the Biosphere 2 Visitor Center on Thursday, April 27, at 8 a.m. to be escorted to the experimental habitat. The crew will be available for interviews before entering the facility around 9 a.m.
    • Media may also return on May 2 at 10 a.m. to interview the crew members when they exit the habitat.
  • Where: Biosphere 2 Visitor Center, 32540 S. Biosphere Road
  • RSVP: RSVP to Mikayla Kelley,

TUCSON, Ariz. – Thursday morning marks the beginning of the six-day Inclusion I mission, in which a four-person crew will be locked in an air-tight, pressurized habitat called the Space Analog for the Moon and Mars, or SAM, at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2.

Biosphere 2 researchers designed and built SAM – with support from the university's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, Paragon Space Development Corporation and NASA – to serve as an experimental prototype of a fully enclosed system to inform how future humans might live and work in space.

"Thirty years ago, eight people sealed themselves inside Biosphere 2 for two years. For the first time since, a crew will seal themselves inside of an analog habitat at this historic location," said Kai Staats, director of research for SAM at Biosphere 2. "On the moon, there is no atmosphere; on Mars, it's thin and toxic to humans, so humans will be living in completely sealed, self-sustaining environments. To prepare for the challenges and understand those complex systems, we first have to practice here on Earth. SAM builds upon the science conducted at Biosphere 2 with modern technology and equipment to inform the future of space exploration."

The SAM habitat is nearly 1,200 square feet and combines the Biosphere 2 prototype Test Module greenhouse with living facilities, including a workshop, kitchen, common area and sleeping quarters. The greenhouse includes hydroponic growing environments with controlled lighting, humidity, heating and cooling. A carbon dioxide scrubber and life support system will provide clean air for the crew.

An airlock leads to a half-acre Mars yard where the crew will test pressure suits, rovers and drones like those that might be used on the rugged terrains of the moon and Mars.

The principal research goals for SAM include demonstrating the transition from machine-based to plant-based life support, maintaining food crops in a sealed greenhouse, studying the microbiome of a sealed environment, using tools when conducting extra-vehicular activity while wearing a full pressure suit, and developing a high-fidelity computer model to help design near-future, other-world habitats.

About a dozen physical simulations of space habitats exist globally, but no others are sealed, pressurized experiments, Staats said.

"We are the only active, air-tight and pressurized analog with a greenhouse in the world today," Staats said. "This is important because every breath we take releases carbon dioxide and moisture, which is in turn used by plants to create oxygen. To actually live on another world, we must develop systems that can sustain human life for long duration with the minimal, external support."

The first mission

Teams can apply to use the SAM research facility to conduct their approved science objectives. Inclusion I is the first to do so.

"Inclusion I is a unique, dynamic team that includes a cardiologist, Blue Origin aerospace engineer, linguist professor and award-winning photographer," Staats said. "In addition, one of the crew is blind, which will add to the challenge and reward of their science-driven mission. They will be conducting more than a dozen experiments in air and water quality, soundscapes, food study, psychology and wellness."

The Inclusion I crew members are:

  • Cassandra Klos, mission commander and photographer, is a fine art photographer and curator.
  • Eiman Jahangir, mission medical officer, is a cardiologist, scuba diver, space enthusiast and two-time NASA astronaut candidate finalist.
  • Bailey Burns, mission engineer, is a Blue Origin aerospace systems engineer focused on environmental control and life support systems, lunar dust mitigation and lunar operations.
  • Sheri Wells-Jensen, mission communications officer and accessibility officer, is a linguist who teaches at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Learn more about the team here.

Staats and the crew members will be available for interviews on April 27 at 8 a.m. Media can return to collect more footage and interviews when the team exits SAM on May 2 at 10 a.m.

The second SAM mission, Inclusion II, runs May 10-15, and will simulate how astronauts could live on Mars.

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Researcher contact:
Kai Staats

Space Analog for the Moon and Mars

Media contact:
Mikayla Kelley
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2021 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $770 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.

The University of Arizona Land Acknowledgement


Biosphere 2 Space