The Fascinating Biosphere 2 in Arizona
Biosphere 2, nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains about 30 miles north of Tucson, started off as an experiment and went on to become one of Arizona’s biggest tourist attractions. More than 2.3 million people have visited Biosphere 2 since 1991, and crowds continue to be enthralled by the sheer magnitude of the project.
Biosphere 2 was designed as a replica of Earth’s environment (Earth being referred to as Biosphere 1) and was built in the late 1980s. Funded to the tune of $150 million by Texas oil magnate, Edward Bass, Biosphere 2 is a 7,2 million cubic foot airtight glass and space framed structure containing five biomes – ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, tropical rainforest, savannah grassland and fog desert. One of the underlying objectives of Biosphere 2 was to explore the possibility of colonizing the moon or Mars, and so, on 26 September 1991 a colony of eight people (four men and four women) from seven different countries entered Biosphere 2 to remain, completely cut off from the outside world, for two years. Despite a number of problems, the original team of Biospherians remained for the two year period and emerged on 26 September 1993. The second group, consisting of five men and two women, who were introduced into Biosphere 2 six months after the first group left, were not as successful, and following some physical and social problems, the human habitation experiment was suspended in 1994.
Daily tours of Biosphere 2 begin in the human habitat where visitors will see the living quarters of one of the previous Biospherians, as well as the farm area where crops where grown and the kitchen where their food was cooked. The guide then leads the tour group through the airlock door into the wilderness areas of Biosphere 2, where visitors never fail to be impressed by the environments produced in this engineering marvel. The tour continues through the tropical savanna, along the 40 foot ocean cliff overlooking the million gallon tropical ocean, descending into the lower savanna along the mangrove, through the thorn scrub and into the fascinating coastal fog desert. Visitors will get a look at the technosphere, which houses the mechanical systems controlling the Biosphere 2 environments, before descending through a tunnel into one of the Biosphere’s two lungs. After an underwater view of the ocean, visitors return to the starting point of the tour, with plenty to tell the folks back home.
In addition to the daily tours, Biosphere 2 offers a program of special events, including talks by former Biospherians, environmental researchers and hands-on Physics Factory learning programs. Although human habitation has not been undertaken again, Biosphere 2 remains a valuable research center for the University of Arizona which undertakes to promote life-long learning about Earth, its living systems and its place in the universe. Visitors can rest assured that, whether they are science enthusiasts or not, a visit to the awe-inspiring Biosphere 2 in the Arizona desert, USA, will be an unforgettable experience.