Thursday, March 10, 2016


Can you imagine living for two years in a sealed building, dependent upon yourself and 7 other people to maintain oxygen levels, growing your own food, and cut off from the outside world? On Wednesday Retha, Mike, Bob, and I visited Biosphere2, an experiment in the 1990s where 8 people did just that.
Currently owned by University of Arizona, it is a research facility set in the desert outside Tucson. This is a lovely time of year to visit the area; flowers are blooming and leaves on trees are starting to emerge.
We arrived in time to have our lunch outside the cafe, with a beautiful view of the mountains that surround the area.
We passed cascades of Wisteria that perfume the air.
After lunch we walked down the path and caught our first glimpse of Biosphere2, and arrived at our tour area.
We watched a brief film before entering the room where trees provided fruits for the researchers 25 years ago.
Our tour guide, Ren, was very knowledgable about the "human experiment," as it was called, as well as the current mission of Biosphere2. At present, the facility is being used to study water and its impact on the environment.
There is an ocean, with a small amount of fish and waves provided by a wave machine. It sounds like the roar of a lion every few seconds as the water is moved by the equipment.
A rain forest with tall bamboo and philodendrons stands in another room, the air thick with humidity.
Yet another area features a desert landscape. Plants are identified by small plaques.
Then we passed through a low, narrow entry into the depths under the facility. This area holds the working parts: the computers, the heating and cooling systems, and the water reclaiming systems.

This section was the "lungs," and the large aluminum disk with legs that hovered behind Ren would raise or lower, depending on the amount of air in the room and allowing for changes in pressure.

In the original experiment, there were hummingbirds and bees to pollinate the plants as well as goats and chickens to help provide some of the food.  At one point oxygen was being lost and had to be added, but other than that, everything needed to sustain life was generated by Biosphere2.

It was a tough two years for the researchers, though, as the food supply was very limited and the people were underfed. In a second experiment a couple of years later, more supplies were provided but the program was aborted after only 6 months when the facility changed owners.

The tour took about an hour and was fascinating. Well worth the drive out there!

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