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The Biosphere Project

In Santa Catalina, Arizona, the largest eco-research system on Earth rests near the mountains just north of Tucson. It’s called ‘Biosphere 2’, and its goal is to educate the public on the importance of conserving Earth’s ecosystem through smarter living and researching climate change.

Built in 1986 by Space Biospheres Ventures, and now owned and maintained by the University of Arizona, Biosphere 2 is roughly the size of two and a half football fields, and is elevated 4,000ft above sea level. The glass facility has several biomes, each one unique to different Earth terrains. There’s a 1,900m rainforest, an 850m ocean, wetland, savannah, desert, human habitat, and underground infrastructure.

The facility runs on solar power and electricity from a nearby gas center. The research center has conducted several missions in which scientists lived inside the closed Biosphere. The first mission lasted from 1991 to 1993, and involved 8 different people with unique skills for the experiment. A second mission took place in 1994, but was scrapped due to financial mismanagement.

Some of the main focuses of the Biosphere project are the production of natural oxygen within a closed environment, and the psychological impact of living inside the Biosphere for a prolonged amount of time, with little to no contact between the researchers and the outside world.

Unfortunately, some problems arose in the early experiments, such as low-oxygen levels and unforeseen psychological and physiological effects on some of the researchers. Overall, it’s been regarded as a success, and has prompted other facilities worldwide to begin similar research.

There have been mixed views towards the Biosphere 2 project, with some calling it, “the most exciting scientific project to be undertaken since President John F. Kennedy launched us toward the moon.” Others aren’t as impressed, and liken it to a masquerade of science.

The University of Arizona has opened the facility to the public, and conducts new research to this day. Future missions may involve cold climate biomes, more closed-system experiments, and modification of current biome modules.

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