Inside Biosphere 2: second name for giant greenhouse building
Since the dawn of humanity, we have had a complex relationship with nature. We are obviously a part of it but often we view ourselves separate from nature or even working against it. Through the control of fire, the rise of agriculture, and the growth of our civilization, we have been the Earth’s environment to suit our needs. We try to control it, try to protect it, we depend upon it, and we try to understand it, but could we recreate it? Taking what we know about the planet and what we need to survive, could we replicate the Earth’s ecosystems? Well, back in the late 1980s, a group of scientists attempted to do just that. Biosphere 1 and Inside Biosphere 2 both are the complex part of India.
In the middle of the Arizona desert lies a 3.14 acres of a research facility that was designed to mimic Biosphere 1 which is the Earth’s complex natural systems. This cool looking giant greenhouse building is known as Biosphere 2. The Deputy Director of Biosphere 2, John Adams, currently owned and operated by the University of Arizona really thought up in the early 80s with this notion that there were a lot of discussions about space travel, extended stays in space, and the recognition was how it will be going to happen?
In 1987, a private organization, Space Biosphere Ventures, headed by billionaire and environmentalist, Ed Bass, spearheaded and designed the construction of Biosphere 2. The project hoped to demonstrate the feasibility of space colonization by recreating the Earth’s ecological systems inside an artificial habitat. No one really tested that on a large scale but Space Biosphere Ventures attempted that. They intended Biosphere 2 to be a completely closed, self-sufficient system, like the Earth’s own Biosphere where plants, animals, and humans could live indefinitely. In fact, it was the largest closed system ever constructed and one of the most ambitious and complex Earth science experiments ever conceived.
In September 1991, eight people were sealed in Biosphere 2, known as Biospherians, they would live inside the structure for a full two years. All the food, water, and amenities had to be obtained from the habitats inside the biosphere. They would have no direct contact with the outside world for the entire length of their stay. The first thing that comes into notice, the oxygen began to go down and down and down. But halfway through this first-two year mission, it got so low that they had to add oxygen in because they were concerned for the safety of individuals inside. This was a problem as the introduction of outside air defeated the purpose of the closed system that Space Biosphere Ventures was trying to achieve. Along with that the management wasn’t even being forthcoming with their problems, led Biosphere to be losing credibility as fast as it was losing oxygen. A second mission was attempted in March 1994, though the second crew was able to fix some of the problems because of management disputes and dissension among the crew, the mission also ended after only six months. And with its original purpose seemingly invalidated, the fate of the project was uncertain and the management body got dissolved.
Biosphere 2 was designed to contain five Biomes or habitats– a rainforest, an ocean, a savanna, a mangrove wetland, and a fog desert along with an agricultural area and living quarters. Although people don’t live in the Biosphere anymore, the ecosystems are still thriving and have been growing for over twenty years now. The most important thing for people to remember is that you can never recreate Earth in its entirety. It is almost impossible because of too many complex things as there is no exchange or interaction with the desert soil outside. You can feel almost an instant humidity change inside. In order to achieve the right environmental conditions, there is a suite of mechanical equipment that occupies the basement like spaces, called as Technosphere. The Biosphere is itself, the footprint is a little over three acres it almost two acres in this Technosphere space where there are the big workhorses, the air handlers so they circulate the air as well as condition it. There are all kinds of pipes that are running to move water from one location to another. Electrical lines, pumps, motors- but it takes all of this to recreate that which Earth is doing every day for us. In addition to controlling airflow, there is another major issue which is to be considered. Biosphere 2 has a volume of 7.2 million cubic feet and as a closed system, it is designed to lose very little of the air it contains. So to prevent the air expansion inside the Biosphere where it got to go somewhere comes to the path of least resistance, pushing it up during the day while at night this weight pushes down on the air and pushes it back inside Biosphere. So, by designing a gigantic lung, the structure goes up and down, regulates air pressure inside the facility keeping the pressure relatively constant. So since the end of the original mission, the facility has been used as a gigantic earth sciences laboratory.