It is well known that the environment in which micromechanical systems operate significantly affects their performance. It is, therefore, important to characterize micromachine behavior in environments where the humidity, pressure, and chemical composition of the ambient can be precisely controlled. Achieving such a level of environmental control presents significant challenges in view of the required instrumentation. To that end, a custom micromachine characterization system is built that allows for full environmental control (pressure, humidity, and gas composition) while retaining full micromachine characterization techniques (long working distance interferometry, electrical probe connectivity, actuation scripting capability). The system also includes an effective in situ surface cleaning mechanism. As an example of the system's utility, a microcantilever crack healing experiment is conducted and surface adhesion energy measurements are tracked over time after a step change in humidity is applied. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.