Behold: The Mars Chamber in its Strange-Looking Glory

NASA Mars Chamber Prepares to Roll to Florida Tech

An email came from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center recently, asking Florida Institute of Technology if they would like to take something off their hands: A Mars Environment Chamber that had been languishing in a spare-part junk yard.


Wrap it Up—We’ll Take it

Mars Chamber

It’s going to need some work.

Mars Chamber
Daniel Batcheldor, head of Physics and Space Sciences, takes a look inside—watch out for spiders.

Daniel Batcheldor, department head for Florida Tech’s College of Science is leading the effort to deliver the chamber to campus. The insulated pressure vessel was made by KSC around 2005 to simulate Martian and Lunar environments for research and instrument testing but funding constraints halted its development. When its refurbished at Florida Tech, it will be able to mimic the atmosphere and temperature of the Martian worldor the Lunar world. So, what’s up with the orange color? Turns out the chamber’s thermal insulation is made from the same, infamous flame retardant foam that coated the retired fleet of Space Shuttles’ external fuel tanks:

Space Shuttle External Tank
Space Shuttle’s external fuel tank (©

By January, it should be tucked inside the Olin Physical Sciences Center’s high bay for refurbishing and eventually, experiments.

Mars Chamber

A few weeks ago, the process to get it to Florida Tech was put into motion. The first step was to wrap the exterior to keep bits of orange foam from wafting away when it makes the journey up I-95 from Kennedy Space Center to Florida Tech. The foam particles are very fine and stick to fingers like Cheetos dust when touched.

Past the guard station on one of many winding back roads of Kennedy Space Center’s sprawling complex is a row of old warehouses. A tattered windsock marks the spot of a large slab of concrete secured by a locked chain link fence. Just beyond was the Mars Chamber’s resting place. The area is one of Kennedy Space Center’s spare-part junk yards filled with nifty things like Frankenstein-worthy, industrial-sized nuts and bolts; empty canisters of liquid methane gas, and enormous stainless steel pipes and valves.

Mars Chamber
Space junk. The NASA panel is used as part of the floor inside the Mars Chamber.

Two KSC workers got the project under way by covering the chamber with a combination of plastic tarp, shrink wrap and tape—just like a big old Christmas present. Or, a giant burrito.

Chipotle anyone?
Chipotle, anyone?

If you’ve ever wrapped anything other than a box, you know it’s not terribly easy.

Mars Chamber
It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Note the two pairs of legs underneath.

And here it is…all wrapped up, just in time for the holidays. Final destination: Florida Tech. Check in again soon to see the Mars Environment Chamber at its new home on campus.

Mars Chamber
Wrapped and ready to go.
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