Tour the Amazing Biosphere Ecosystem
Built Near Tucson, Arizona
On September 26, 1991, eight people entered the newly built Biosphere 2 to begin a two year adventure that many people thought could only be imagined by a Hollywood movie director. In fact, millions of people worldwide did watch the news stories that were broadcast about this incredible experiment. Everyone wondered if humans could survive for years inside a sealed ecosystem, where they grew their own plants and animals for food. Could they maintain safe oxygen levels inside the biosphere? Would they eventually run out of water or any other resource? We all understood that if humans are ever going to be able to colonize another planet, they will need to be able to successfully create self-contained ecosystems where they can live.
There were complications. One of the women was seriously injured, and had to be removed for a few hours to be treated at a hospital. Unusually cloudy weather reduced photosynthesis inside the Biosphere, and carbon dioxide levels became dangerously high. Oxygen had to be pumped into the structure in order to maintain levels that were safe for human survival. From these experiences, however, scientists were able to learn more about the improvements that would need to be made if a similar ecosystem were to be built on another planet.
There were also astonishing successes. Other than the brief extraction of one person, everyone was able to survive the full two years. This set a new record for living inside a closed ecological life support system. The crew left with lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure than when they entered. One couple who went through this experience together got married afterwards.
The animals appeared to do well, too. Chickens were raised for eggs, goats for milk, and hogs for meat. Other animals were also included as part of the experiment. A baby galago, a type of primate that was raised in the Biosphere, was conceived and born while inside.
Facts About Biosphere 2
The amazing Biosphere 2 structure is an incredible architectural feat. Here are some interesting details about the structure.
It is 91 feet tall at its highest point.
It contains 6500 windows and 7,200,000 cubic feet of sealed glass.
It is sealed from the earth below the structure by a 500-ton stainless steel liner.
The structure covers 3.14 acres.
It is situated on a 34.5 acre campus that also houses administrative offices, classrooms, labs, a café, a gift shop, a conference center and residences.
You can learn more by reading one of the excellent books about the facility:
Biosphere 2 Today
Although the first Biosphere experiment ended approximately 20 years ago, the structure is now managed by the University of Arizona and research continues to be conducted inside. However, scientists are not the only people to visit the structure today. Anyone can stop by for a guided tour nearly every day of the year. Discover for yourself what it is like. Consider whether or not you think you would be able to live within its confines for two or more years.
Time Life Books has called the Biosphere one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world. The admission price is kept low, and touring it is an incredible experience that your entire family will find fascinating. The facility is located just outside Tucson, Arizona off Highway 77. The exact address is: 32540 S. Biosphere Road, Oracle, AZ 85623. The phone number is: 520-838-6200. They also have a website at B2science.org.
If you take the tour, you will begin with a brief movie about the original experiment and crew members. During the tour, you will have the opportunity to view these areas and habitats: the ocean, the rainforest, the desert, the water and life experiment and the south lung. The two "lungs" were structures attached to the facility that were used to control the volume of air inside the main structures. Here is a photo of the ocean habitat, as viewed from the savannah, one of the other habitats:
After your tour, you can also add on a short self-guided tour of the underwater viewing areas of the Biosphere Ocean and the living quarters of the crew members. Within the structure, there was a comfortable residential area with a common dining room and kitchen. In addition, each crew member was assigned a two story apartment that contained a private living room and a bedroom. Providing the crew with ample privacy was considered very important to the success of the project. It may be one reason they were able to live in relative peace (although there were some conflicts).
If you are interested in science, or in traveling in the Southwestern United States, you may also be interested in reading some of these articles:
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