Biosphere 2 is an Earth systems science research facility owned by the University of Arizona. Its current mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It is a 3.14-acre (12,700 m2)structure originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona (US) by Space Biosphere Ventures, a joint venture whose principal officers were John P. Allen, inventor and Executive Director, and Margret Augustine, CEO. Constructed between 1987 and 1991, it was used to explore the complex web of interactions within life systems in a structure that included five areas based on biomes and an agricultural area and human living/working space to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology with the rest of nature. It also explored the possible use of closed biospheres inspace colonization, and allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's. The name comes from Earth's biosphere, Biosphere 1. Earth's life system is the only biosphere currently known.
Not a lot of people know about the ocean and rainforest that sit in the middle of the Arizona desert-- they're contained within the 3-acre funky glass building that houses Biosphere 2. This tiny microcosm of Earth's biomes was created with the noble goal of researching and developing self-sustaining space-colonization technology, and while scientists have gathered some valuable data from the biodome, Biosphere 2 is probably best known for the two missions carried out inside between 1991 and 1994, the second of which was called off early after a dispute got more than a little out of hand. And, the best part? Today, you can tour Biosphere 2.The first "mission" in Biosphere 2 (so called because technically, Earth was "Biosphere 1") was highly publicized-- 8 crew members locked themselves in the biosphere for two years, determined to survive on their own. Despite a few minor inconveniences like ant and cockroach populations inside thriving, the loss of pollinating insect populations, rumors of hidden, prepackaged foods and oxygen being replenished from the outside, wildly fluctuating CO2 levels and, at times, disputes (and hookups-- two Biospherians got married immeditately after the mission ended) between the crew, the project was a relative success-- at least, enough so to justfy a second mission. That ended up not being a super great idea: within a month of the 10-month-long mission's start, a dispute between those in charge led to on-site management being ousted by federal marshals bearing a restraining order. A few days later, the building was allegedly vandalized by crew members from the first mission. Despite all this, plus multiple crew members leaving mid-mission, the crew trooped on until September, when it was finally shut down.Thankfully, the iconic building was rescued by the University of Arizona, who uses the facility for projects "including research into the terrestrial water cycle and how it relates to ecology, atmospheric science, soil geochemistry, and climate change." as they try to restore the sullied reputation of the Biosphere 2 project. They also offer in-depth tours of Biosphere 2-- it's a lot like an enormous, walk-through ecological science experiment. You can see oceans with coral reefs, sandy deserts, lush rainforests and more, all in a tour that lasts under 2 hours. One of the highlights of the tour of Biosphere 2 isn't an ecosystem, surprisingly enough, but an engineering feat: the lung domes created to account for the fact that the heat from the sun caused the air inside the biosphere to expand during the hot daytime hours, and contract when things cooled off at night.