Kai Staats

Research Director of SAM

Kai is a veteran developer of platforms for research and science education. He was co-founder and CEO of the world-renowned Yellow Dog Linux operating system for ten years. The YDL platform was used extensively in Department of Energy, NASA, and University research across a full spectrum of sciences. Kai designed and developed iConji, an icon-based language for international communication; wrote the machine learning algorithm Karoo GP which has been used at LIGO for classification of glitches and supernovae; and was principal designer of the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory in Tanzania, the first of its kind in East Africa. At Arizona State University Kai led the development of SIMOC, a research-grade computer simulation and educational interface hosted by National Geographic that enables citizen scientists to explore the complexity of a human habitat on Mars. Now, Kai and his team are constructing SAM, a hi-fidelity, hermetically sealed Mars habitat analog with greenhouse, living quarters, airlock, pressure suits, and half acre Mars yard located at the iconic University of Arizona Biosphere 2.


  • BSc: Industrial Design, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Arizona State University
  • MSc: Applied Mathematics, University of Cape Town, South Africa