Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Visit to Biosphere 2

On Saturday, 3-15, we decided to visit Biosphere 2 near Tucson. It's about a two hour drive from Happy Trails. Our good friends Allen & Shari Kainu accompanied us on this adventure.

The Biosphere 2 was an experiment in living in a confined, self sustained space for a long period of time. Biosphere 1 is our earth in which all of our needs are meant within our small sphere. They tried to replicate all aspects of earth within the sphere. There is a rain forest, a desert, a Savannah, and a sea including a corral reef. There's also an area for growing food and raising animals. It was a noble effort, but it didn't work out exactly the way they planned. There was personnel problems, a lack of oxygen, and a real shortage of food caused real stress that resulted in ending the mission early. Even with all of these problems, the crew was able to last 2 years. A second mission was planned, but it only lasted a couple of months. After that, the biosphere was never sealed again. It was turned over to Columbia University who built some classrooms and dormitories and conducted experiments. After eight years control of Biosphere 2 reverted to the original owners, the Bass family. They put it up for sale in 2005, and it was purchased by a housing developer in 2007. But the Bass family retained control of the 3.5 acres of the Biosphere complex, and leased it to Arizona State University for $100 year. They also provided 30 million dollars to maintain the facilities and conduct new research. This marks a new beginning for Biosphere 2 and promises many improvements over the next few years.
This is a picture of the living areas of the Biosphere. The crew members had private living quarters, meeting areas, labs, kitchen, and behind the tall structure are the farming and animal areas.

Here's a picture of the sea, with a rock wall that created the waves to allow the reef to stay alive and the fish to live. In fact, one of the few remaining creatures in the complex are some fish in the sea.

The rain forest was recently added to the tour. Here you can see the mist in the air that creates a great growth area for bamboo and other jungle type plants.

During the tour we noticed a lot of maintenance issues that need to be addressed before much new research could be conducted. With the new infusion of money we're sure there will be many improvements, and some exciting new discoveries from this unique place. If you're in the area make sure you take the time to tour this special place and keep track of progress on the website.
If you're interested in more information about the history and missions, check this entry on Wikipedia:
When we're in Arizona next winter we plan to revisit this interesting place.

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