What is Biosphere 2?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2019
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Biosphere 2 is a scientific facility in Oracle, Arizona which was built in 1987 with the intent of researching the complex interactions which occur inside an ecosystem. In addition, the facility was used to explore the possibility of establishing closed and secured environments in hostile locations, such as other planets. Although Biosphere 2 was begun with the best of intentions, it quickly became the subject of derision and mockery in the scientific community.

The seeds of Biosphere 2 were sown in the early 1980s, when John Polk Allen and Margret Augustine partnered to form Space Biosphere Ventures, the company which built Biosphere 2. After sketching out plans and acquiring land, construction on the 3.15 acre facility began in 1987, and continued through 1991. The structure was designed as an artificial closed ecological system, meaning that it was completely sealed from the outside world. It was named “Biosphere 2” in a nod to the first biosphere, the Earth itself.

Inside Biosphere 2, a number of miniature ecosystems were established including plains, a tropical forest, and a small ocean. The facility also included living quarters and research facilities so that residents of Biosphere 2 could perform experiments. In 1991, after several brief trials, a crew of eight people was admitted into the structure.


For the next two years, the crew lived and worked inside the structure, totally sealed off from the rest of the world. Despite being carefully selected for the mission, the crew was ultimately beset by serious interpersonal problems, compounded by difficulties with food production and air quality. Although the group recycled their waste and attempted to live entirely within a closed system, several injections of pure oxygen were needed to sustain them, as carbon dioxide levels rose dangerously high. Critics of the project have also suggested that food and supplies were smuggled in during this supposedly sealed period.

Another crew lived in the biosphere for six months, but the scientific community had largely dismissed Biosphere 2 as a viable research facility at that point and the experiment ended early. In 1995, Columbia University took over management of the facility, using it to research ecosystems in general and to perform other scientific research. The University did not maintain the sealed status of the biosphere, and it declined to renew its contract in 2003. In 2006, the structure and the site sold to a developer, which transferred management to the University of Arizona in 2007. The university intends to use the facility to research climate change, and it also runs it as a tourist attraction.


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Post 3

Why don't we make another biosphere now that we have more intelligence on the biosphere to make another one and more technology?

Post 1

Wasn't there a Pauly Shore movie about the Biosphere?

At least the developer gave management to UA so some scientific benefit comes of it instead of being demolished or just falling apart.

Even with the need to inject oxygen and the possibility of smuggled food, it probably would have been regarded in a better light if the crew hadn't decided to get "personal".

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