As NASA's Perseverance Rover begins it's days exploring the planet Mars, I was thinking about the Biosphere 2 project here back on Earth. In particular how ahead of it's time the project really was. Consider, if we humans are going to explore further into space, the ability to create an environment for humans to live outside of our planet is a huge leap. Consider a lunar station. A jump off base from the moon to explore other parts of the solar system. It would need to be a sustainable place that provided all the needs for humans to survive there. Today, with the expectation that humans will land on Mars in perhaps 10 years time, how important will the Biosphere 2 project be to these missions to Mars? I appreciate that it was 20 years ago when the Biosphere 2 project was launched. Many people will be unfamiliar with the project. Stick with me as we need to go back 20 years to see the future.
have to go back a bit. It
years ago. The project of Biosphere 2 was a concept back in the late
80's. Construction began in 1987 just
outside Oracle, Arizona and
it was completed in 1991. The concept is simple. Could we create an
enclosed space here on Earth that humans
could live in. Everything would have to sustain itself within the
enclosure. Systems for water recycling, waste management, food
production and air cleaning all needed to be contained within the
space. The experiment was to enclose a group of humans
into the facility to live and work for 2 years. It would take our
best knowledge of the day in all spheres of science and engineering
to make this project work. The
project was going to cross over architectural design, systems
engineering, environmental science and also significantly human
science. Everything was up for grabs here.
the time in
the early 90's,
in many conversations with
my friends over the Biosphere 2 project. We would talk at length
about the environmental science and the engineering of the facility
late into the night. With a bunch of science and engineering nerds
we would read the scientific literature that was being produced and
keep abreast of any news that would be published. I
bet you are so regretting not being able
to be a part
our group now aren’t you?
Although always portrayed as a huge failure, there is a huge amount
that is learnt from the experience regardless of outcome.
speedily ahead to 2013. I had been in Tuscson, Arizona
which is a fabulous place. Taking a drive up to see Biosphere 2 was
definitely something that I wanted to do. Initially
I had thought that this might not be possible as back in the day the
facility was guarded 24-7. To my delight, I discovered that access
to the property and also a tour of the facility was available to the
public. The University
had taken over the facility in 2011 and therefore the place was a bit
run down at the time. I thought that this bit of neglect was great.
To me it seemed more of a time capsule back into the 1990's world. A
closer connection to the people that had lived in the facility as
both experimenters and experiments themselves. The
visit that I had and all the images that I took that day are still
very personnel to me as I never thought that I would be and see the
I can imagine that the place has been changed a bit. Perhaps more
staged in some areas and some of the authentic 90's has gone. It
is cool that the facility was not demolished so that the experiments
and projects can continue. It
is a place with an interesting story. Remove
the science and technology from the equation and there is still
story. A Peyton Place, barrel of human interaction (minus
the homicide and suicide).
I find the story of alliances, scandal,
the cult, drama,
that split amongst the team to be very interesting. With
of books and a
documentary to its name (Spaceship Earth, released May8th
are plenty of secrets and lies to be had. Still a fantastic place to take photographs and enjoy the day.
it out and let me know what you think?