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A Visit To The Biosphere 2 – A Scientific Phenomenon, Day 103

Today we had the chance to visit and tour the Biosphere 2, just north of Tucson, Arizona.

This is the exact location and facility that was the home for 8 adults in a sealed, biosphere environment for 2 years from 1991-1993.

And because we were staying in Tucson, Arizona we both agreed that this was a visit that we must make while were were in town.

As we were driving to the remote location, we began to reminisce about what we remembered about the Biosphere 2. We both remembered facts from news broadcasts about the iconic human and environmental scientific experiment. And the funny thing is we both recalled different memories.

We tried to remember how many Biosopherians were to call this location home for 2 years. And recall how many months that the experiment actually lasted.

the biosphere 2 kitchen
The Biosphere 2 had a fully stocked kitchen, but it was growing and harvesting the food that was the challenge.

So today, we were able to settle all debates about what we remembered. We got an up close and personal view and history lesson on why and how Biosphere 2 was built and maintained.

History of the Biosphere 2 Structures

During the late 1980s, Space Biosphere Ventures dreamed of building the Biosphere 2. It was a private company that began to conduct a series of small scale trials on sustainable living.

The company began planning a long-term experiment to study everything they could about human survival in a sealed, sustainable environment. They hoped to identify the effects humans had on their environment, and vice versa.

So they tried a few small scale trials of humans being sealed in various biome environments. After being successful with these mini experiments, they decided to pursue their dreams.

living quarters
You can take a look inside the Biosphere 2 where each individual resident had a 400 square foot, townhouse that held a desk, couch and a Murphy bed.

They continued to build the Biosphere 2, and in late 1991, the first 8 residents entered the sealed building.

But it just wasn’t any building. This 150 million dollar structure was home to 5 different biomes including a rain forest, ocean, desert and more!

The scientific experiment focused on how humans can interact successfully within various environments that are found on earth. And that meant that they had to be totally self-sustainable in regards to food and water consumption.

Biosphere 2 telephone
Although they were sealed in the building, visitors had the opportunity to talk to them through a window and a direct phone line.

Although the crew surpassed the expectation to complete the time period of 2 years it wasn’t easy or without struggles. The actual time spent in the building was 2 years and 20 minutes.

The Struggles of Biosphere 2

There were several issues with being sealed in for two years. The bees died due to the lack of natural light. And subsequently they were unable to pollinate the farm crops.

So the crew had to hand pollinate and tend to all the crops which meant spending 12 hours a day working on the farm. There was constant hunger and fighting among the crew and it proved to be a very difficult 2 years.

Although all 8 individuals made it through the entire timespan, the unexpected amount of farming that it took to harvest enough food for everyone was exhausting.

And not only were they tired. This left little time for actual scientific experiments beyond providing the basic needs of the residents.

On the working farm there were also chickens, goats and pigs inside the sealed building.

Then of course there is the natural drama of living with 4 men and 4 women. Of course, being hungry didn’t help the social interactions and most likely spurred the riffs that developed amongst the crew members.

Although there was a separation of unity between the two groups that formed, in the end, there were 6 couples that developed after being together for so long. And as of today, they are still together.

The New Era

So you may be wondering if the Biosphere 2 is still a sealed, self-sustaining facility for adults. And the answer is No, Absolutely Not.

After one more attempt at having another crew live inside, there was a change in management and the scientific experiment was aborted early.

Columbia University leased the facility and changed the focus to environmental scientific research from 1995-2003.

ocean biome
The Ocean Biome where scientific research is being conducted on how to help corral reef survive the ever changing pH levels of the ocean waters.

They also added several buildings and walkways in hopes that one day it would also become a tourist destination.

The facility was sold to a private investment group and in 2007. And the University of Arizona began to revamp and run the facility.

Today’s Environmental Experiments

And today, it is the largest research facility for Environmental Scientific Research in the world.

Although it doesn’t house any residents, and it is no longer sealed, the scientific studies that are conducted at this facility are amazing.

An aquaponic experimental garden being conducted as research for sustaining growth without soil.

Right now the Rain Forest team is conducting a massive research project on droughts and it’s impact on the environment.

And then there is the Ocean Biome where corral reefs are being studied. The focus is to modify them for long term survival in the ever changing ocean environment.

However, that is just the tip of the ice berg. From gardening practices to feed the ever growing population and raising crops on Mars, to making soil from lava rock crumbles, it is all being done at the Biosphere 2.

Mars Garden
The one of only two Mars Garden experiments. A garden growing in a sealed environment, just as it would be required on Mars.

The research that is being conducted in this remote site that once was called home to several individuals, is incredible. In fact, it is truly life changing.

We have been on several tours during our time on the road, but this one, by far, exceeded all expectations!

If you are ever in the Tucson area, or if you are a scientific, human, or environmental junkie, this is the place for you!

LEO domes
Here are the LEO domes which are the newest and largest experimental project focusing on the rain water impact on a mountain slope environment.

We would highly suggest to take not only the General Admission tour but also the History tour.

The information, questions and answers was well worth the admission price!

Happy Traveling! Jim and Mary

Trip Stats To Date

  • Day 103 of 365
  • States : 13 / 50
  • National Parks / Monuments : 15
  • Stayed In : Tucson, Arizona
  • Miles Driven : 105
  • Total Trip Miles To Date : 11,026.5
  • Total Gallons Used : 804.85
  • Biking Miles : 0.0
  • Biking Miles To Date : 142.5
  • Hiking Miles : 3.3
  • Hiking Miles To Date : 253.1

About Our Living Simple Tour

On September 9th, 2019, we set out in our NuCamp T@B 400 Teardrop Camper to travel to every state. You can check out all of our dates here : Dates for the States

Follow along by signing up for our twice weekly email updates at the bottom of the page. You can also follow us on Facebook : Live Simple Tour Facebook and Instagram : Live Simple Now Instagram Page.

Anne Redman

Saturday 21st of December 2019

You guys are certainly hitting on some things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I had always wondered about that place and you guys just answered a lot of those questions. Thanks. Safe travels. 😊


Sunday 22nd of December 2019

It's our pleasure Anne! The trip sure brings back a lot of memories for us as well!