I am here to report we finally made it inside Biosphere 2, the world-renowned, self-enclosed science station run by the University of Arizona near Tucson. You may recall that last year, my son and I saw the station, but only from the outside because we didn’t have time to wait for a tour. (We had to catch a plane home.)
On our recent trip, we allowed ourselves plenty of time and were able to buy tickets for a general tour. The day was rainy, so many others had the same idea, and the place was packed with other science-nerd people who wanted tours.
We arrived too late for a tour of the “ocean,” however, which saddened my Sea Grant-y heart. By 10 a.m., only one ocean ticket remained, and there were three of us. I was tempted to mutiny and claim the last ticket, but I don’t think Russ and my son would have enjoyed that move on my part.
Several different biomes are featured in the station. Our tour first led us to the rainforest. When my son and I saw the rainforest building last year, plants were plastered against the windows, even several stories up – almost bursting the glass. Scientists must have been getting worried because they started a drought study on the rainforest. The plants now are much less dense, and a little sad and brown, but I suppose they had to do something to contain them.
Although we weren’t able to get a tour of the ocean “beach,” we did see it from above. As the sign says, it’s one of the largest research oceans, although it’s in bad shape. Acidification has killed the coral in it, and last time we visited, algae were creating problems.
I love nature, but the coolest part of the tour for me was seeing one of the building’s “lungs.” The station was built to see if it could be possible to construct a life-sustaining enclosed environment on Mars, or some other such planet. The station’s two lungs performed the function of equalizing air pressure between the inside and outside of the station. They worked so well that only one of the lungs was needed, not both.
We ducked through some small openings and walked down long cement corridors to get to the center of the South Lung. A water reservoir stands in the middle of the lung, covered by a hugely heavy metal plate that’s attached to a rubber membrane from the ceiling, which our tour guide said is made from the same rubber as Zodiac boats. The plate falls or rises in response to pressure changes. Legs on the bottom of the plate keep it from crashing into the floor as pressure drops. The plate is reminiscent of a flying saucer. The lung looks like a great setting for a creepy fiction story. Hmmmmm.
The peek inside Biosphere 2 was fascinating and I recommend it.
5 thoughts on “Biosphere 2, Revisited”
That’s really cool. I didn’t know about the tours. Hope I get to go there some day but I bet it takes a lot to keep it going.
Yes, the Biosphere has quite the electric bill! But I guess it gets enough income from science grants and tourism to keep it going.
This IS very cool. I never heard of this place before your first post. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Colette! I just learned several books have been written about the place, plus a spoofy movie. I bought one of the books at the Biosphere gift shop: “The Human Experiment.” It’s written by one of the people who lived in the station for two years. The movie is called “Biodome,” and was made in the mid-1990s.
Marie, I just googled the movie. I can see why I never heard of it! Thanks for the book title. I see that the book is available in my state but because of the virus, I can’t order it now. Maybe later…