Biosphere 2 - The Once Infamous Live-In Terrarium

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

My Visit to Biosphere 2

Do you think you could live in a shopping mall for two years?

This is a little bit what the 8 biospherians did when they entered Biosphere 2 for a two-year mission. Their goal was to live sealed inside a self-sustaining dome for two years. They would not be provided any outside food, water, or oxygen and live off the plants and animals they would raise inside the biosphere.

biosphere 2

I recently visited my sister who lives in Oracle Arizona. After arriving my sister mentioned we should go visit Biosphere 2. My reply was, sounds good, but what is Biosphere 2?

In the late 80s and early 90s, the world was excited about building colonies in space. Many people thought that in their lifetime a space colony may be built on Mars.

A group of people led by John Allen and financed by Ed Bass set out to build a self-contained module here on Earth that 8 people would live in for 2 years and be fully self-supported. 

Biosphere 2 is located right outside of Oracle Arizona. 

It looks out over the Catalina Mountains of Arizona

The humans who would live inside biosphere 2  would grow all their food, recycle their water, rely on their plants for oxygen, and also carry out 64 experiments.

Biosphere 2 had a rainforest, a savannah, a desert, and an ocean with a coral reef, mangrove wetlands, and an agricultural system.

biosphere 2 rainforest

Before the biosphereans could enter the biosphere plants and animals had to be gathered from all around the world and then transported and grown inside. This was no easy task.

On   September 26, 1991, each of the 8 Biosphereans entered biosphere 2 with their very keen jumpsuit. The crew consisted of 4 females and 4 males

Each person had their own small apartment and there was a communal kitchen. 

The agricultural system produced 83% of the total diet, which included crops of bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes, beets, peanuts, beans, rice, and wheat during the first year, the eight inhabitants reported continual hunger. In spite of their hunger, their medical markers indicated they were in excellent health.

In addition to agriculture, the crew had goats, chickens, and fish.

The biggest problem the crew faced was inadequate oxygen and spiking carbon dioxide levels. The lack of oxygen created an environment that simulated living at 13,390 feet. This lack of oxygen and the calorie-restricted diet contributed to low morale among the 8 crew members.

mountain 13,000

In the end, the mission of Biosphere 2 was both a success and a failure. The crew learned how to live together for 2 years in an unsupported environment, but at one point oxygen had to be pumped into Biosphere 2 to help the crew.

Eventually, there was another shorter mission, but then the goal of Biosphere 2 changed to more of a research facility.

I highly recommend visiting biosphere 2 if you are in the Tucson area.


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