The Challenge of Closed-loop and Bioregenerative Life Support for Long Duration Space Exploration

Members of the Biosphere 2 team and the University of Arizona faculty will guide an engaging, informed, and relevant seminar on the intricate complexity and real-world challenges of sustaining human life in a sealed vessel for a long-duration mission.

The human drive to reach to the stars has outpaced our understanding of the full scale of biological systems that keep us alive here on Earth. When we aim our rockets to the nearest stars we will be forced to reconcile our relationship to our first home before we endeavor to venture to the next.

The fundamental question, “What is the minimum complexity required to sustain human life for a long-duration mission” will be discussed as a function of physico-mechanical and bioregeneration against the backdrop of research at the University of Arizona’s CEAC, Biosphere 2, SAM, and other analogs and experiments world-wide.

It is the intent of the speakers to leave a solid hour for interactive discussion throughout the program.


Kai Staats is leading the development of a Space Analog for the Moon and Mars (SAM) at Biosphere 2, a hermetically sealed habitat analog. Within this unique vessel teams will conduct research related to plant physiology and ecology, microbial community evolution, CO2 sequestration, water recycling, pressure regulation; human food studies, and with the use of a pressure suit, EVA, tool use, and rover studies, and more.

Kai is also the lead of the SIMOC [see-mok] project, a scalable, interactive software model of an off-world community. SIMOC is built on published data derived from Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) and closed ecosystem research at NASA and universities world-wide. The goal for the users to design a habitat that sustains human life with a combination of physico-chemical ECLSS and bioregenerative (living plant) systems, and is scalable to accommodate a growing community. Kai is a co-author of “World Ships: Feasibility and Rationale” as well as many other publications spanning a wide range of interests.

John Adams, Deputy Director of the Biosphere 2

Trent Tresch, Director of Research & Development at SAM

Dr. Gene Giacomelli has collaborated internationally for 40 years for research, education and development of sustainable methods of growing food to feed the world, as well as designing food production systems. He has designed and provided operational support with Sadler Machine Co., Tempe, Arizona for the first automated food growth chamber to sustain research teams at the US South Pole Station in Antarctica (2002 – 2012). He has contributed to the development of the prototype Mars-Lunar Greenhouse with a team of engineers, scientists and a business entrepreneur for NASA to provide human life-support and to grow food on the moon and Mars (2008 – 2017). In 2009-10, a Sabbatical was competed at Aero-Sekur, an Italian aerospace company, with focus on Bioregenerative life support food systems for Moon, Mars and Earth.