Biosphere 2 Has a New Mission

Ever wondered what came of this famous science experiment in the Arizona desert? As Allen Breed in an AP story this week recalls,

Jane Poynter and seven compatriots agreed to spend two years sealed inside a 3-acre terrarium in the Sonoran Desert. Their mission back in the 1990s: To see whether humans might someday be able to create self-sustaining colonies in outer space.

It didn’t work out so good for the inhabitants. Here’s the short version:

during the first two-year mission that began in 1991, the Biosphere was beset by one problem after another: Oxygen dwindled, and the sea became acidic. Crops failed, causing the bionauts to lose weight rapidly, while ants and other insects thrived.

Poynter wrote a book about her experience. You can also watch her on this three-minute video describe what happens when people don’t have enough food to eat.

But enough about the humans. What happened to the actual Biosphere? In his AP story, Breed writes:

Two decades later, the only creatures inhabiting Biosphere 2 are cockroaches, nematodes, snails, crazy ants and assorted fish. Scientists are still using the 7.2-million-square-foot facility, only now the focus is figuring out how we’ll survive on our own warming planet.

The new reconstituted plans for the enclosed Biosphere will not simulate reality again, though, and involve humans as part of the experiment.

Here’s a nice talk by Poynter about both the original scientific goals and the personal ordeal.

One Response to “Biosphere 2 Has a New Mission”

  1. Jeff Norris says:

    I am really surprised no one has jumped on this as an example of how much we do not know regarding our how our eco system works especially climate wrt CO2 and computer models
    The first problem BIO 2 had was CO 2 levels and so they had to quietly install a scrubber.
    The New York Times said of the Project
    “Next month one of the most complex software packages ever designed will get a chance to prove itself in [Biosphere 2]…Their environment will be controlled by G2, the most advanced of new batch of computer programs, known as expert systems, that are designed to mimic human decision-making.”
    The project was a worthy endeavor and of course over hyped by both the principles and the Media but you have to admit that it clearly showed how much we still don’t know than how much we do.

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