Biosphere 2 private enterprise

One of the most interesting, comprehensive, and longest experiments in isolated, confined environments was conducted under private auspices in Oracle, Arizona (see Exhibit 77). Located in the American southwest near the foothills of Catalina Mountains on SunSpace Ranch, just 50 km north of Tucson, the enterprise was funded by Texas billionaire Ed Bass, a co-designer of Disney's Epcot Center. Under the name Space Biosphere Ventures, scientists, architects, ecotechnicians, and entrepreneurs put together a $150 million project. The founders considered the Earth the first biosphere, and called their undertaking Biosphere 2 [27]. On a 12,000 m2 area of land, they built a glass-enclosed ecological system, with laboratories or "biomes" for rainforest, savannah, marine, marsh, desert, agriculture, and human habitat. In Spring 1991, this miniature world was tested for its ability to recycle and maintain environments (air, water, and nutrients ) supporting 4,000 inhabitant species of plants

Exhibit 77. Biosphere 2. Exterior view of the 3.14-acre (1.27 hectare) glass-enclosed living laboratory in Oracle, Arizona, USA. Privately financed isolation studies have been carried out at this enclosed facility, in research which may someday be applicable to life in space colonies. The scientific focus at Biosphere 2 has shifted away from human subjects between 1991 and 1994 to closed ecological systems with plants and animals, as well as a tourist attraction and conference center. The University of Arizona assumed management of Biosphere 2 in June 2007. Source: Biosphere 2. For more information, see http://www.b2science.org/

Exhibit 77. Biosphere 2. Exterior view of the 3.14-acre (1.27 hectare) glass-enclosed living laboratory in Oracle, Arizona, USA. Privately financed isolation studies have been carried out at this enclosed facility, in research which may someday be applicable to life in space colonies. The scientific focus at Biosphere 2 has shifted away from human subjects between 1991 and 1994 to closed ecological systems with plants and animals, as well as a tourist attraction and conference center. The University of Arizona assumed management of Biosphere 2 in June 2007. Source: Biosphere 2. For more information, see http://www.b2science.org/

and animals, including a crew of eight people. Built supposedly to last 1,000 years, the initial test period was for two years to determine whether the inhabitants could live in harmony within their biosphere. Open to public tours, the facility encompasses the Biospheric Research and Development Center, as well as a conference center and gift shop. To cover escalating costs, the venture makes additional income from tourism, media, and spin-off technology (www.biosphere.com ... www.thepepper.com/tucson_ biosphere.html ... www.b2science.org/).

In her recent book on Biosphere 2: Lessons Learned, Jayne Poynter discusses the implications of the original experiment regarding negative psychological and interpersonal adaptations.

The project's public relations promoted this enterprise as a world of discovery, an excursion into the future, the genesis of a space colony. It contains a miniature mountain, a desert, forests, and a 9 million-liter saltwater sea. The original aim was to test the ability of lifeforms to survive and thrive in a sealed environment for the extended time period. The whole endeavor was envisioned as a prototype for human habitation in space, a learning laboratory for other biospheres on space stations, the Moon or Mars. Dr. Walter Adey, director of the Smithsonian Marine Systems Laboratory and a consultant on the program, commented that scientists try to make simple rules for complex processes, so Biosphere 2 was a serious attempt to step beyond this and work with organisms and ecosystems as the complex systems that they really are. Mark Nelson, chairman of the Institute of Ecotechnics, the London-based ecological organization that conceived and originally managed the research and development, maintained:

"The technology for producing oxygen and other necessities of life are readily available for sustained human exploration of the heavens. The science of biospheres, understanding how biospheres operate on a planetary scale, as well as our microscale at Biosphere 2, is one key to opening this frontier today in preparation for future frontiers on Earth and in space.''

Prior to entry, the first crew of eight, dubbed biospherians, trained together as a team for some months, including survival trips to remote areas. The four men and four women were airlocked into Biosphere 2 on September 26, 1991, beginning continuous testing of the regenerative life support systems in five biomes. Only one, Roy Walford, a pathologist from the University of California-Los Angeles, was a trained scientist. Two thousand electronic sensors linked to one of the most advanced artificial intelligence computing systems assisted biospherians in monitoring the ecosystem within the 90% closed environment. Inside the air-conditioned enclosure, the plan was for the crew to grow, harvest, and eat their own food (about 2,500 Calories a day), select their own menus from the 26 crops to be raised, and to drink recycled water. They enjoyed television and videos, as well as other creative hobbies, and were supposed to exchange only information and energy with the outside world during their 24-month stay within this interior space. Project secrecy was such that little was known as to how the initial crew were selected and trained, as well as how they were to be monitored and supported. But, by October 1991 one crew member had left the airlock for medical treatment and reportedly carried in extra supplies on her return. By December 1991, project operators conceded that they needed to pump in extra air, and were coping with problems within the enclosure, such as the spread of plant rust disease. The first mission ended in September 1993, and the crewmembers emerged haggard, having lost an average of around 11 kg during their two-year isolation in an artificial environment. Among the serious problems discovered in Biosphere 2 were (1) self-sufficiency from framing did not live up to expectations, partially because the external El Nino climate effect reduced sunlight from the outside and the closed ecosystem could not supply 2,500 Calories per day for the biospherians; (2) the oxygen levels within the biosphere itself dropped below 14.5% and was deemed hazardous. The pioneer mission was also marked by controversy over management's concealment of setbacks, as well as differences with the scientific community over the experimental nature of the project. The special independent committee of ten scientists who were to oversee the simulated "space habitat'' resigned because of lack of cooperation by the operators, who were not listening to the advisors. To address the Biosphere 2 scientific shortcomings, a panel of scientists under Tom Lovejoy, a Smithsonian Institution ecologist, studied the whole project, issuing a report and recommendations which were acted upon (New Scientist, February 8, 1993).

A second mission was undertaken in February 1994 with a crew of seven, but the time enclosed was curtailed. Five men and two women stayed in isolation for only six months, but emerged from the sealed laboratory healthy and well-fed. By April 1994, six officers of the original operating company were relieved of duties. The new administration created a research consortium with scientists from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory which decided that the emphasis at Biosphere 2 was to be on research in environmental sciences, especially global climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable agriculture. Jointly, a non-profit institute was created to open Biosphere 2 for research by universities, national laboratories, and private teams. Dr. Bruno Marino, a biochemist from Harvard University, was appointed in August 1994 as its new scientific director. From both a tourism and an ecological perspective, Biosphere 2 was somewhat successful. The hope was that its experiments would eventually contribute to NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System, which is developing biogenerative life support systems to produce, process, and recycle biomass. The Biosphere 2 hardware may someday be tested in an orbiting space biosphere. Some other positive by-products of this venture include

• A consortium of Japanese corporations and NASDA planning to build Biosphere J ("j" is for junior since it would be a quarter the size of its Arizona counterpart). It has yet to be built in northern Japan.

• Biosphere 2 patron Edward Bass donating $25 million to Yale University to form an Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS) to conduct further ecological research.

• Spin-off technologies that will have terrestrial as well as in-space applications.

In the 21st century, Biosphere 2 has become a popular tourist destination that runs educational programs related to global warming. Since July 2007, Biosphere 2

has been managed by the University of Arizona. Grants by the Philecology Foundation and other organizations are supporting research programs and the costs of operating the facility. Biosphere 2's research arm, dubbed B2 Earthscience, is led by Travis Huxman, UA associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Plans are under way for another terrestrial analog in 2010, to simulate lunar living, but this one will be aimed at tourists. Entrepreneur Michael Henderson is creating "Moon Casino Narrows'' on an artifical island that will house hotel attractions, cruise ship terminals, and sporting and real estate facilities. The future site has been narrowed down to Singapore, Thailand, or the Bahamas. The gravitational attraction has as one of its consultants, Col. Rick Searfoss (USAF Retd.), a former NASA astronaut and Shuttle Commander. The project hopes to build on public interest in near-term U.S. and China lunar missions.

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