In 1991, they locked eight people in the Biosphere in the Arizona desert and left them there to their own devices for two years. It was big news at the time, and most of us agreed we could not do such a thing, even in the name of science.
I had not thought of the Biosphere again until driving near Oracle, Arizona, north of Tucson, and duh, there was a sign for the Biosphere. So I had to check it out.
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What Is the Biosphere and Why Was it Built
The idea of the Biosphere was to test theories of space colonization. Could humans create enough food in a closed environment to support life in a setting unlike the Earth’s atmosphere? Basically, it was, and still is, a massive Earth Science laboratory.
It was funded by a private research company with vested interests in such projects. But after $200 million and two missions, the company ran out of money.
The University of Arizona now operates the Biosphere as a research laboratory.
Touring the Biosphere in Arizona Today
I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand a lot of what the guides where talking about, nor the science underway at the Biosphere.
Nonetheless, I was fascinated by the work there. For one reason, I was raised on a family farm, and for another, I like food, so any science that impacts those two interests has my respect and appreciation.
There are seven biomes, including a rain forest, ocean, coral reef, mangrove, savannah grassland, a fog desert, plus a human habitat and agriculture environment. All of this is enclosed under three acres of glass. The idea is to better understand how these environments interact and support life on planet Earth and other planets.
During the two missions in the Biosphere, the scientists grew their own coffee — just enough that they could have one cup every two weeks. There was some reported tension among the crew.
Maybe they should have planted a few more coffee bushes.
They also grew bananas, papayas, grapefruit, peppers, and more. As you can imagine, the scientists all lost a little weight and came out of the Biosphere with nearly ideal cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Sign me up please.
So you see all of this on the tour, as well as where the scientists lived and the current studies underway. There’s a lot of walking and quite a few stairs, so wear decent shoes.
I was fascinated by a Lunar Greenhouse that apparently is a precise model of the moon’s conditions. They are successfully growing strawberries, eggplants, peppers and tomatoes.
And they are recruiting scientists/farmers for an agriculture mission to Mars in 2030. I secretly signed up my three nephews. Just a little surprise from Aunt Diana when NASA comes knocking in a few years!
Why You Should Visit the Biosphere in Arizona
So, I admitted that I didn’t understand everything going on at the Biosphere. And I’m quite sure I was not alone in my lack of comprehension. But you should still go. First of all, it’s just a pleasant walk through the grounds, so you’ll get a bit of exercise. There’s some lovely art placed here and there, a nice gift shop and little coffee shop.
If you have children in your life, drag them along and encourage them to ask questions. Some of the kids who were on my tour are going to change the universe. I was so impressed by their insight.
But you might learn something, too, and that’s what travel is all about, isn’t it? Learning something new, thinking about things in a new way? A visit to the Biosphere is as much a mental road trip as it is a physical one.
Build your own Biosphere at Home