30 minutes north of Tucson is the sight of Biosphere 2, originally an experiment in self sustainable living. This was done as an experiment of how humans might live in space. Today it is managed by the Univerity of Arizona who use it as mini controllable eco systems for a variety of experiments.
Biosphere 2 is the only location on earth where man controls nature. Located in the shadows of the Santa Catalina mountains in Oracle, Arizona it represents the advent of man’s scientific taming of nature. It is said that this is the place where science lives, you have to see it to really grasp the meaning of the statement "where science lives". It is the world’s largest center for scientific research, outreach, teaching, and life-long learning about Earth and its living systems. Some have referred to it as science under glass or life beyond the biodome. It is indeed an experiment that reminds me of man’s constant need to understand certain things that God never meant for us to understand.
The Biosphere 2 is under the management and administration of the University of Arizona one of the nation’s highest achieving institutions, according to a report by the National Wildlife Federation and the Princeton Survey Research Associates International "Campus Environment 2008: A National Report Card on Sustainability in Higher Education" Oh' in case you are wondering where biosphere 1 is, it is the current environment you live in; the earth's life system as you currently know it.
The Biosphere 2 science experiment was a private venture by John Polk Allen and Margaret Augustine whose initial idea of the structure was for artificial closed ecological system. When it was first constructed in the late eighties (1987), the structure was to be used to explore the complex web of interactions within living systems in the biosphere as well as look into the possibility of colonizing outer pace with closed biosphere. The question at hand would then be "is it possible to do without harming mother earth?".
I joined the 11:45 a.m. tour, which was to last an hour and a half. Inside this huge enclosure were what they called 'representative bio domes'. The bio domes represented a rain forest, a desert, a savanna grassland , a fog desert , a human habitat and an agricultural land. As we went through one region to another, our tour guide went into detail to explain the processes the scientists went through and how certain experiments worked and others failed. He explained how the scientists had to learn to grow food inside the biosphere and survive by harvesting, cooking and eating what they grew within. Can you imagine staying inside a sealed building for two years without physical contact with the outside world? That’s what happened at the biosphere 2 in 1991, for the first six months researchers had to go in and out through an air tight door. Tough indeed, I could only imagine. We saw some coffee trees (if you know how coffee is grown, you know you will never have a cup of coffee for at least a few years).
The Biosphere experiment ended prematurely in 1994 due to financial difficulties. 1995 University of Columbia took over management. The management of the facility was taken over by the University of Arizona in June of 2007 after fears of the glass structure being closed, was aired on National News.
Good place to take kids for educational experience but basically a big greenhouse; interesting scientific experiments; owned and run by the university of Arizona; rather pricey at twenty dollars per adult for a couple of hours but you are supporting science; the most impressive were the twin “lungs” made of hypalon rubber [6 tons] and steel [14 tons] and the tunnels that lead into it; nice to visit once; nice educational posters everywhere; interesting architecture
Biosphere 2 is an experimental complex with a closed ecological system. Since the first mission in 1991, I was set on going there. At that time, we had a weekly report on our Belgian news, with Mark Van Thillo, one of the B2 inhabitants. I followed this first mission very closely, so being there was one of the highlights of our AZ trip.
The first thing I noticed was: "It doesn't look like it is showed in reports and on photos."
It is not located in the middle of nowhere, but there is a whole village built around the dome. Furthermore, the area is green and not desertlike.
The inside shows some ravages of time, but is well maintained. The Under Glass tour is a walk through the different spheres, over the tropical savanna to the rainforest. The guides provide information over the several missions, the results and the failures. Well, to me, each scientific experience results in a good discovery, even when it failed.
The visitors can also walk throug the technosphere where mechanical systems make control of the Biosphere 2 environments possible. The tour ends descending through a tunnel into one of two lungs. They are large geodesic domes that originally prevented Biosphere 2 from exploding or imploding. Those are very impressive and even a little scary!
Biosphere 2 is a 3.14 acre Biosphere facility with 7,200,000 cubic feet of sealed glass consisting of 6,500 windows. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe, and to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding about Earth and its future; be an adaptive tool for Earth education and outreach to industry, government, and the public; and to distill issues related to Earth systems planning and management for use by policymakers, students and the public. Hours are 9 AM to 4 PM except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission is $20 for adults and children 13 and over; $13 for children 6 to 12; and free for children 5 and under. Military can get in for $18. See also my Oracle, Arizona Page.
Designers of the Biosphere were interested in the possibility of colonizing the Moon or Mars. They "sealed" 8 people inside the Biosphere 2 for two years to try and learn what problems might arise from living in a closed system.
The building is an interesting look at our eco-system and you can get to see how these 8 people lived enclosed for a couple years. One giant scientific experiment.
It is an interesting but out of the way spot to visit.
Biosphere 2 was a Columbia University’s study center. This research and learning center studied how the environment affected our lives, and how we affected the environment. The goal of Biosphere 2 was to find ways for humans to become responsible care takers of our planet, therefore ensuring a safe environment for future generations. In this tour you will explore what was at one time the world’s largest glass-enclosed sealed ecological laboratory. When it was originally built 8 people lived in it for a 2 year period without coming out. When we visited research was being done to discover how increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere could affect animal and plant life on our planet. The hope was that with understanding of this we could find ways to manage our environment more responsibly. This one time research center covers 3.15 acres with five glass domes and structures housing separate biomes; a rainforest, desert, savanna, marsh, and ocean. The rainforest, being the tallest structure is 91 feet high. The ocean is 25 feet in size and contains a million gallons of saltwater. Here the coral reef was studied. There is also an intensive agriculture bay for growing crops. When we visited this area was being used to grow cottonwood trees to study environmental effects on them. You will also view the Human Habitat area, which contained the living quarters for the team of people who use to live here full time. Unfortunately the university found that this lab was too expensive to continue using as a working laboratory, and as of 2004 is open for tourism only. Open daily for guided tours, 9:00 to 4:00. I would recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes, and allowing 2 hours minimum time. In 2001 admission was $12.95 adult, $8.95 children ages 13 to 17, and $6 for ages 6 to 12.
Biosphere II was a big experiment to see if live could exist on other planets in a huge greenhouse.
Experiments are still carried out there but it is no longer a sealed environment.
You can do 2 tours there, the general one where you go round the outside and the under roof one where you get to go into alot of it. It is well worth doing both as you cant do the inside one if you dont do the general one. $15 general tour $10 inside tour. Inside tour you will get to go inside the dessert environment, savannah, ocean overlook and the lungs of the complex where the expanded air goes in the heat of the day
Biosphere 2 was privately constructed in the late 1980s to discover if eight people could sustain themselves in a sealed, energy-rich environment. The first two-year mission began in September 1991 and was followed by a second, shorter mission in 1993-1994. Following these experiments, the owners of Biosphere 2 decided to change its mission and asked scientists at Columbia University to advise them as to what might be done. This advisory role led to an acceptance by Columbia, in 1996, of full responsibility for the conduct of research, education and public outreach activities on the site. The current management agreement with Columbia University extends through 2010